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Old 12-28-2011, 11:11 PM   #1
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Default First Brew - Bottling

Hello all, just brewed my first beer a couple weeks ago. It was a Brewer's Best IPA kit. Everything went smoothly, got it into the 6.5 glass carboy fine after the boil, ran into an unexpected foam over that actually blew the lid off the air lock but managed to handle it alright.. That was really the only 'hiccup' along the way so far. Unfortunately I found out about blow off hoses AFTER mine happened... But now I know for next time

As for my question, the beer has been fermenting since the 17th, gradually slowing bit by bit each day. The OG was 1.060 (Supposed to be between 1.061-1.065) and last Thursday or Friday I took a reading and it was at 1.016 (FG is supposed to be 1.014-1.017) so it was close to perfect... However it wasn't done fermenting. I've been reading on here and most people prefer or suggest not doing a secondary, so I decided to go that route and just leave it in the primary until bottling. As of today, the bubbles in the air lock are coming once every minute or so. I'd like your guys' suggestions on when to move onto bottling. I've read varying suggestions on when is a good time to bottle... The directions that came with the kit say within 4-6 days the bubbling will slow down until there will be no more C02 being released, then after fermentation is complete (no bubbles for 48 hours) record your FG and seems they suggest bottling at that point. However, I've read many methods on here that suggest otherwise. I don't want to create bottle bombs with my first brew, but I don't want to wait too long either. What's a good time to ferment with an IPA? And what are your takes on the 48 hours with no bubbles, is that a reasonable time to move to bottling?

If you guys need any more info let me know, I've been keeping notes along the way just to reference anything I need to. After taking a reading last week I sampled the beer and it seems to be coming along well! I'm excited to try the finished product, but also realize I have at least 2-3 weeks yet, so I'm trying to be patient. The smell of the IPA from the air lock does not help!

I appreciate the help in advance, and sorry for typing up a book-just trying to be thorough. The advice is appreciated, hope to learn much more than I already have and make this a permanent hobby! Prost!

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Old 12-28-2011, 11:19 PM   #2
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First things first, ignore what the airlock is doing. Even when it's done fermenting you can still see airlock activity as atmospheric pressure changes, the beer gives off residual CO2, etc. The hydrometer is the only way to know for sure. If you have taken samples a few days in a row and it isn't changing, and it's in the expected target range, then it should be fine to bottle regardless of what the airlock is doing.

And don't worry about waiting too long. Most of my beers end up going about a full month in primary before I move on to keg, usually because I'm lazy and forget about the beer.

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Old 12-28-2011, 11:34 PM   #3
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Thanks. Do the time increments between bubbling in the air lock relate to the stage its at in fermentation or is it not a good idea to use that as an indicator at all? When I took a reading last week and it was at 1.016 it was still releasing bubbles every 20-30 seconds, from what I've read its still pretty actively fermenting. I was a bit concerned at that point since 1.016 is where the FG is supposed to be but it was still fermenting yet, so I'm thinking it might fall below the expected range. But then again, this is my first brew so I'm not quite sure what to expect at this point in time.

With that being said, I will have to take a reading and see where its currently at.

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Old 12-28-2011, 11:40 PM   #4
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Thanks. Do the time increments between bubbling in the air lock relate to the stage its at in fermentation or is it not a good idea to use that as an indicator at all?

With that being said, I will have to take a reading and see where its currently at.
Nope, bubble frequency means very little. Different yeast strains ferment differently, temperature can change how active fermentation is or how much residual CO2 is being released, a low pressure system moving over your area can suddenly increase bubble activity, etc.

The bottom line is that the presence of bubbling isn't an indication that fermentation is occurring. Yes, fermentation creates bubbles and you will see more activity when that is going on, but in the end it doesn't tell you the real story of what is going on.

So, take another reading and see where it stands. It may have dropped a few more points since the first reading and that's OK. That just means you'll want to wait another day or two and then take another sample to see if it's still dropping or if it has leveled off.
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Old 12-28-2011, 11:41 PM   #5
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Welcome, and congratulations on your first brew!

As Maraubozo said, hydrometer readings over time are the best way to know for sure where your gravity is and whether your beer is ready to bottle.

In many cases your beer will benefit from a few extra days in primary to finish fermentation and let the yeast clean up a bit. One of the biggest challenges of this hobby is patience, especially for newer brewers. In general, if you are unsure if a beer is done fermenting and ready to bottle, it could probably use a few more days. And those kit instructions can be chucked, if you are here on HBT you've already got access to better brewing information.

Cheers

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Old 12-29-2011, 12:03 AM   #6
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Thanks again for the help. I guess I've just presumed its not good to open the seal on the fermenter that often, after reading your responses I am guessing it isn't that harmful? Is the airtight seal primarily used to keep bacteria out and to prevent over-oxidization? Maybe I read too many horror stories to drill it into my mind that you don't want to open up the seal until the end.. Having a glass carboy, I suppose that is a bit impossible if I should be taking readings for a few days in a row.

dcHokie: I have read that leaving it in the fermenter a few extra days to let the yeast clean up its 'mess' and I have been aiming to do that. I guess this information helps a lot in knowing when I have gotten to that point to allow those few extra days. I've been loosely following those instructions from the kit, and my hand written notes from other sources compiled together to get a general guideline. Reading this forum has been my primary 'go-to' when I've had questions in my mind.

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Old 12-29-2011, 12:10 AM   #7
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Thanks again for the help. I guess I've just presumed its not good to open the seal on the fermenter that often, after reading your responses I am guessing it isn't that harmful?
In homebrewing there is so much that we advise folks not to do, yet the one thing that EVERY book, podcast, magazine and website talks about is gravity readings....

How do you think we get them?

Do you think the advice to take them is a vast conspiracy by us old timers to ruin millions of new brewer's batches, so that they flee the hobby and give it a bad rap? Or so they make crappy beer and we kick your asses in contests?

With simple sanitization practices openning the fermenter to take a reading is perfectly safe. You won't spoil your beer.

I know it's a scary premise, but it is really silly to avoid something scientific like a gravity reading because you're afraid of that and instead rely on something faulty like counting bubbles. You have to man up, grow some stones and get over the idea that openning your fermenter to do something positive like take a gravity reading, is dangerous.

Our beer is much stronger than that.

Here, read this, Revvy's advice for the new brewer in terms of worry. You might find the info and advice helpful....

Your HYDROMETER is the only BEST indicator of fermentation activity. Nothing else is accurate or consistent...

Unless you take a gravity reading you don't know what's really going on, not by airlock bubbling or by krausen formation. Neither of those signs are effective, they don't tell you exactly where on the fermentation process you are.

The amount of krausen can vary for whatever reason, it can come quick and depart quickly or it can linger long after fermentation is complete, and it all be normal.

And airlocks sometimes bubble or they don't.

If your airlock was bubbling and stopped---It doesn't mean fermentation has stopped.

If you airlock isn't bubbling, it doesn't mean your fermentation hasn't started....

If your airlock starts bubbling, it really doesn't matter.

If your airlock NEVER bubbles, it doesn't mean anything is wrong or right.

Your airlock is not a fermentation gauge, it is a VALVE to release excess co2. And the peak of fermentation has already wound down, so there's simply no need to vent off any excess co2.

Fermentation is not always "dynamic," just because you don't SEE anything happening, doesn't mean that any-thing's wrong,, and also doesn't mean that the yeast are still not working diligently away, doing what they've been doing for over 4,000 years.

That's why you need to take a gravity reading to know how your fermentation is going, NOT go by airlocks, or size of krausen, or a calendar, the horoscope or the phases of the moon (those things in my mind are equally accurate).

The most important tool you can use is a hydrometer. It's the only way you will truly know when your beer is ready...airlock bubbles and other things are faulty.

The only way to truly know what is going on in your fermenter is with your hydrometer. Like I said here in my blog, which I encourage you to read, Think evaluation before action you sure as HELL wouldn't want a doctor to start cutting on you unless he used the proper diagnostic instuments like x-rays first, right? You wouldn't want him to just take a look in your eyes briefly and say "I'm cutting into your chest first thing in the morning." You would want them to use the right diagnostic tools before the slice and dice, right? You'd cry malpractice, I would hope, if they didn't say they were sending you for an MRI and other things before going in....

Thinking about "doing anything" like repitching, or bottling, or racking, without first taking a hydrometer reading is tantamount to the doctor deciding to cut you open without running any diagnostic tests....Taking one look at you and saying, "Yeah I'm going in." You would really want the doctor to use all means to properly diagnose what's going on?

Sorry but that really is the only answer that is accurate or consistant, the numbers on the little stick. I have had evrey airlock bubbling/non bubbling/slow bubbling/fast bubbling/little krausen/big krausen/slow forming krausen/krausen staying 3 weeks after the hydro showed terminal gravity scenario imaginable in nearly 1,000 gallons of beer, and none of that stuff is as accurate as 30 seconds with a hydrometer.

With simple sanitization practices openning the fermenter to take a reading is perfectly safe. You won't spoil your beer.

This is what I use, and it works with both buckets and carboys.

I replaced the plastic one a year ago with an extra long stainless baster from a kitchen ware store and it is awesome. But the plastic one from any grocery store works fine.



And



Here's what I do....

1) With a spray bottle filled with starsan I spray the lid of my bucket, or the mouth of the carboy, including the bung. Then I spray my turkey baster inside and out with sanitize (or dunking it in a container of sanitizer).

2) Open fermenter.

3) Draw Sample

4) fill sample jar (usualy 2-3 turky baster draws

5)Spray bung or lid with sanitizer again

6) Close lid or bung

6) add hydrometer and take reading

It is less than 30 seconds from the time the lid is removed until it is closed again. More like 15 if you ask me.

Probably less if you have help. And unless a bird flies in your place and lets go with some poop, you should be okay.
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Old 12-29-2011, 12:15 AM   #8
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Oh yeah, other great advice, if someone has 33,000+ posts, listen to what they are saying

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Old 12-29-2011, 12:21 AM   #9
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Revvy, thanks for that information, I really appreciate it. I will be sure to read your additional links of info. You just made a local store a sale tomorrow . I've been thinking of picking up a turkey baster after reading about other people using them, but you just gave me that extra push... That will surely beat using a wine thief in the future.

Hydrometer is drilled into my regular homebrewing vocab now, I will make sure to get more use out of mine! Thanks again for taking the time to type that out... It really does help.

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Old 12-29-2011, 12:26 AM   #10
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I've been thinking of picking up a turkey baster after reading about other people using them, but you just gave me that extra push... That will surely beat using a wine thief in the future.
And you can add a length off tubing to the end of your turkey baster if need be when fermenting in a carboy, works well for me
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