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Old 12-21-2009, 09:28 PM   #1
Moonladymae
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Default First Brew, lots of questions

I brewed my first batch of homebrew this weekend. I chose to do a Pale Ale, with grains and extract. I got the recipe from the local brew supply store. I think the whole boiling/brewing process went well, no boil overs, followed the recipe well except I did end up adding a bit more hops than the recipe called for (I wasn't paying attention to quanities, etc.). However when I added the wort to the water in the primary fermenter all looked and smelled great! The first hydrometer reading I had a hard time with, I couldn't tell how to really read the thing, but according to it the alcohol content was 6%, that seems pretty high already. So, here's some questions I have:

1. Already seems to have a high alcohol content, will it get much higher during fermentation?

2. Should I go with a secondary fermentation? I keep reading mixed thoughts on this part.

3. How long is the average fermentation for a pale ale?

4. I am going to keg this first batch since that's what I have borrowed from a friend, do I need to still add the corn sugar or anything before kegging?

That's just a few of the questions I have for now. Everything I have come accross on here is really helpful so far and these questions I am sure have been asked, but thought I would throw my own post out there. Thanks all for your help in advance, I hope to make many, many more homebrews!

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Old 12-21-2009, 09:34 PM   #2
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The hydrometer measures the amount of potential alcohol- not the alcohol content- with that 6%. That measurement is really pretty useless to us beer brewers, but I use it with wine. It seems like you have a "triple scale hydrometer", so look at it again. It should have three scales- the % you saw, the Balling scale, and the SG scale. The scale we use has numbers like this:

.990
____
____
____
____
1.000
____
____

etc.

Here's a photo:



That's what you want to read. That's the scale that will give you the most information. When it's done, you subtract the final reading from the original reading and multiply by 131 to get the actual ABV.

I don't use a secondary. You can if you want to.

Fermentation times vary greatly, from 1 day to 2 weeks. In general, the beer is done in 3-5 days but you let it sit a bit on the yeast cake so that the yeast can "clean up" any waste products. What happens is when there are no more fermentabel sugars to eat, the yeast then digest their own waste products before falling out of suspension and going dormant.

If you're force carbing, no need to add sugar.

And, welcome to our obsession!

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Old 12-21-2009, 09:35 PM   #3
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1. you don't have alcohol yet. all you have is sugar dissolved in water. as the yeast eat she sugar they will make alcohol. so yes your alcohol will go up from 0% to what ever you end up with.

2. considering this is your first brew i would leave it in the primary.

3. it depends on the temperature your fermenting at and the starting gravity of the wart. generally its between 2 and 6 weeks.

4. it depends. are you going to force carbonate? if you are then no you do not need to add the sugar.

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Old 12-21-2009, 09:43 PM   #4
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First of all, welcome to an addictive hobby. I'm going to answer your questions but remember these are just MY opinions. You can find a million answers using the search function and I encourage it.

I also highly recommend you read How To Brew by John Palmer because it sounds like you are a little confused on some of the main concepts of brewing.

My answers to your questions:

1. Already seems to have a high alcohol content, will it get much higher during fermentation? There is no alcohol content in your wort BEFORE fermentation begins. This is what creates the alcohol of your beer, the process of fermentation.
2. Should I go with a secondary fermentation? I keep reading mixed thoughts on this part. You will get a lot of mixed thoughts. I think a secondary fermentation is pointless unless you are adding something else to the beer (dry hopping, fruit). Seems like another chance of contamination when it's been proven that you can get great beer out of 1 stage fermentation schedule.

3. How long is the average fermentation for a pale ale? My rule for most ales is at least 2.5-3 weeks in the primary, longer for some bigger beers. Most of the time, you can bottle your beer after 3 weeks in the fermenter. You'll just want to take gravity readings to make sure the beer has finished fermenting.

4. I am going to keg this first batch since that's what I have borrowed from a friend, do I need to still add the corn sugar or anything before kegging? This all depends on whether or not the keg is going to be hooked to a CO2 tank. Some people prime their keg naturally with corn sugar and use various devices to pour it from the keg. If it is going to be hooked to a tank, no priming necessary.

Hope some of this helps. This board is amazing. So many intelligent brewers here.(I'm certainly not one of them.)

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Old 12-22-2009, 02:11 AM   #5
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Ok, so I do have a triple scale hydrometer, but I can't really tell how to read the SG on it, the top says .990, than below that looks maybe like 1.0, than 10, than 20 and so on. So from the top down my first reading was at 45, so is that 1.45? I borrowed this from a friend who hasn't brewed in years and can't remember how it works :-( any help on reading this thing would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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Old 12-22-2009, 02:15 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moonladymae View Post
Ok, so I do have a triple scale hydrometer, but I can't really tell how to read the SG on it, the top says .990, than below that looks maybe like 1.0, than 10, than 20 and so on. So from the top down my first reading was at 45, so is that 1.45? I borrowed this from a friend who hasn't brewed in years and can't remember how it works :-( any help on reading this thing would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
In the picture I posted, the reading is 1.050. The scale goes to about 1.100, with each line being two points. Your reading might be 1.045 if the line was at where you see 45.
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Old 12-22-2009, 02:24 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moonladymae View Post
Ok, so I do have a triple scale hydrometer, but I can't really tell how to read the SG on it, the top says .990, than below that looks maybe like 1.0, than 10, than 20 and so on. So from the top down my first reading was at 45, so is that 1.45? I borrowed this from a friend who hasn't brewed in years and can't remember how it works :-( any help on reading this thing would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
The scale is considerred to be all in 3 digits past the decimal. So the 1.0 you mentioned most likely says 1.000. Moving down as you see 10, 20 etc it is only the last two digits that are changing. So that is 1.010, 1.020 etc. Each hash mark represents .002 So if your reading is 2 minor hash marks lower than the 40 your reading would be 1.044 Your reading of 45 is 1.045. You record this reading in a journal or log book or software etc. When the beer is finished you take another reading. Lets say your reading of the completed beer is 1.012 You take the starting reading of 1.045, subtract the finished reading of 1.012 and you get 0.033 You multiply the 0.033 x 131 and get 4.323. That would be 4.323% alcohol.

Most hydrometers are made to read correctly at 60 deg F, and you will need to use a correction chart at other temperatures. If you take the reading at 70 deg F the correction is minor, you just add .001 to what you read.
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Old 12-22-2009, 02:28 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by YooperBrew View Post
When it's done, you subtract the final reading from the original reading and multiply by 131 to get the actual ABV.
This is very interesting and helpful to someone, who is new, like me. Thank you for posting it Yooper!!

Two questions, if I may. Where does the number 131 come from in the equation and how much wort/beer does the hydrometer displace? Do you measure from the original wort/beer line or where it comes up to on the hydrometer?

Sorry, I guess that was more than a couple of questions.
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Old 12-22-2009, 02:34 AM   #9
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Default Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thanks for all the info everyone! That helps greatly! So it looks as though my first reading was actually at 1.048 at 70 deg. So, I add the difference and that makes my first reading at 1.049.

Is that a good reading?

I love this forum, learning a TON!!

Cheers everyone!

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Old 12-22-2009, 03:13 AM   #10
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This thread is timely, I too was using a triple scale hydrometer for the first time this weekend and that photo helped it all make sense.

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