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Old 09-05-2012, 04:24 AM   #1
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Default First hydrometer reading and taste test

When I bought my first equipment and kit the LHBS didn't mention a hydrometer. I brewed on a Sunday so I couldn't get one to take an initial reading, but the recipe states an OG of 1.048. Based on the calculation method on picobrewery.com my OG should be about 1.050 and my FG should be 1.012 assuming 75% attenuation, which seems reasonable for Safale US-05.

I finally got a hydrometer today. I tested in my tap water and got a reading of about 1.010, but I did not check the temp and therefore did not adjust for temp. I pulled a sample that was 66 degrees and had a gravity of 1.015. The internet calculator I found for adjusting for temp came back with 1.015 as well.

I was hoping to bottle on Saturday, as the recipe calls for two weeks of fermentation with no mention of a FG. I plan to take another reading on Thursday and on Saturday. If the readings are not the same, what risks am I taking if I go ahead and bottle not knowing what FG I'm aiming for? Since this is my first batch it's hard to balance my impatience with wanting to get it right.

As suggested, I tasted the sample and must admit that my excitement lessened a bit as it tasted a bit bad, but since I don't know what it should taste like at this point I'm not going to worry about it. The color is very nice, but it is a bit murky. The aroma has a good hop character to it and I get the bitterness of the hops in the taste, but I'm having a hard time imagining what a few weeks in the bottle and some carbonation is going to do to improve the flavor. What do bottle conditioning and carbonation do for the flavor?

Thanks!

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Old 09-05-2012, 04:33 AM   #2
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First I'm no expert and don't claim to be but what I know from reading some books and just browsing this site is
1. If you are checking readings on the hydrometer every few days and they are changing(meaning going lower) then you want to keep it in primary for another few days. Keep taking readings and when the readings are the same for about 3 days then you can rack it and bottle it. If you bottle before the fermentation is complete then you have bottle bombs (yikes).

2. When I did my first batch of ale I tried the beer before i bottled and I'll admit it had a good flavor profile but it seemed to lack the awesome factor I was hoping for. After the conditioning process for 2 weeks I popped my first one and was amazed at the flavor. Everyone that tried it loved it. So don't worry to much about the flavor and everything else before you bottle.

Just my 2 cents but hope I helped. Good luck!

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Old 09-05-2012, 03:05 PM   #3
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Don't worry about the taste of the beer before it is carbonated and cold. Some FG taste samples taste good, some taste horrible, and either way it isn't an indicator of how the final product will taste.

If your FG is stable, you are good to go bottling. 1.015 is close enough to the expected 1.012 to reasonably expect that to be the proper FG. Yeast do what yeast do, and the attenuation rates on the packaging is AVERAGE attenuation, not exact attenuation rates. It is a good way to calculate a ballpark figure, but it is usually off by just a bit either way.

Everything you have described seems right on the mark. Bottle conditioning will take all of those individual malt and hop flavors that are sort of distinctly separate in a young beer and meld them into a single cohesive taste. Give it 2-3 weeks carbing and conditioning in bottles, then about 48 hours in the fridge at serving temps to absorb the CO2 before you serve, and you should have a nice, drinkable beer.

Good luck!

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Old 09-05-2012, 05:50 PM   #4
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I just received another hydrometer today. I ordered one from Midwest last week but was getting impatient so I picked one up from my LHBS yesterday. I'll test both with my tap water today. If I get different readings I may pull a sample today or tomorrow and then again Saturday or Sunday and hopefully I'll be ready to bottle.

I'm glad to hear that FG sample taste isn't indicative of the final taste.

Thanks for the input. I love that I can get experienced advice so quickly here.

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Old 09-05-2012, 06:01 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TopherM View Post
Don't worry about the taste of the beer before it is carbonated and cold. Some FG taste samples taste good, some taste horrible, and either way it isn't an indicator of how the final product will taste.
For me, if the beer tastes good at bottling, it will likely be a great beer. If it tastes OK, it will probably come out as a good beer. If I drink the whole tasting glass, it will probably be awesome. Conversely, if there are a lot of off flavors, I'll give the beers more time after conditioning to see if it they improve.

So saying that it isn't an indicator might not be the best choice of words. You can get general idea of how it will turn out.
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Old 09-05-2012, 06:23 PM   #6
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Quote:
So saying that it isn't an indicator might not be the best choice of words. You can get general idea of how it will turn out.
I have had plenty of pre-carb gravity samples that tasted far better than the finished product, plenty of sub-par gravity samples that ended being phenomenal beers, and plenty of other experiences everywhere inbetween. I think you are right that a good bit of the time, a good pre-carb sample will end up as a good post-carb beer, and vice-versa but it certainly is far from a direct correlation in my experience.
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Old 09-05-2012, 07:03 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MTate37 View Post
As suggested, I tasted the sample and must admit that my excitement lessened a bit as it tasted a bit bad, but since I don't know what it should taste like at this point I'm not going to worry about it. The color is very nice, but it is a bit murky.
You might consider letting it wait another couple weeks before bottling -- you'll probably hit a stable FG in just two weeks, but that doesn't leave the yeasties much time to "clean up after themselves" (re-metabolize some off-flavor-causing compounds released during the main ferment) or drop out of suspension. Hard as it is to wait (I rushed my first batch into bottles, I won't lie), it should improve the flavor and reduce the murkiness.
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Old 09-05-2012, 07:56 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TopherM View Post
I have had plenty of pre-carb gravity samples that tasted far better than the finished product, plenty of sub-par gravity samples that ended being phenomenal beers, and plenty of other experiences everywhere inbetween. I think you are right that a good bit of the time, a good pre-carb sample will end up as a good post-carb beer, and vice-versa but it certainly is far from a direct correlation in my experience.
As with everything in brewing, it all depends a ton of factors.
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Old 09-05-2012, 08:50 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TopherM
Don't worry about the taste of the beer before it is carbonated and cold. Some FG taste samples taste good, some taste horrible, and either way it isn't an indicator of how the final product will taste.
I have to disagree in a sense.

One reason for pre-carb tasting is to get a general idea of the flavor profile. Can you taste hops and bitterness in an IPA, chocolate notes on a milk chocolate stout, fruit flavors in a fruited wheat, etc. it definitely won't be what the final beer will taste like, but you can get an idea if certain flavors that are supposed to be there are there. And if the beer is supposed to be über hoppy and there's no taste of hops, it may be an indication of a possible problem.

I do agree that certain flavors do change as the beer carbonates and ages, and it's shouldn't be the be-all-end-all. As many threads indicate, people try a "raw" beer, don't taste the subtle reason note, and come here thinking the beer is ruined.

In the end, it's all about patience.
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Old 09-05-2012, 09:36 PM   #10
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I just received another hydrometer today. I ordered one from Midwest last week but was getting impatient so I picked one up from my LHBS yesterday. I'll test both with my tap water today.
Hydrometers are based on pure (distilled) water. Mine measures 1.010 in distilled water so I know to subtract .010 from all readings....I really need to get a new one.
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