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Old 06-20-2011, 03:21 AM   #1
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Default New to brewing, finishing gravity too high

Hello,

Just wanted to start off by saying this is a great forum. I've been lurking for a while, learned a lot, and I'm grateful this resource exists.

Like the title says, I'm new to brewing, and I'd just like to see if anyone has some thoughts or input on how I'm doing.

I received a beer brewing kit for a birthday present. It came with what it said was enough extract and ingredients to do two 5 gallon batches of beer. After toying around with the recipe in BrewMate, though, I decided to just wing it and use up all the extract, so that I could move straight to AG brewing. Here's the recipe I ended up doing:

3.3 lbs Coopers Light LME
3.3 lbs Coopers Amber LME
0.5 lbs corn sugar
1.0 oz Cascade hops (7.0% alpha) at 60 minutes remaining
0.5 oz Cascade hops (7.0% alpha) at 1 minute remaining (wanted lots of aroma, not too much bittering)

Pre-boil volume was 6 gallons. Boiled for 20 minutes to remove chlorine. Hops and LME went in at 60 minutes, kept a good rolling boil going for the whole hour. Ended up with 5 gallons of wort. Chilled in the bathtub pretty quickly, siphoned to the fermenter, proofed and pitched the yeast -- Muntons ale dry yeast. OG was 1.053, exactly as predicted. So far so good.

Fermenting seemed to get off to a really good start after about 12 hours. Good krausen, nice beer-y odor in the fermenting closet. Airlock bubbling like crazy, but I understand that's not really a reliable indicator one way or the other. Fermenting temps are a little high, around 76-78, but stable -- this will be addressed before starting another batch. Everything seemed to settle down after about 48 hours of vigorous activity.

Today, 7 days later, I goofed a bit. I figured at these warmer temperatures, there's no way it wouldn't be done fermenting, so I racked it to my priming bucket, filled the fermenter with cleaner, and set about sanitizing my bottling equipment. Suddenly I realized that I ought to take a hydrometer reading. I got 1.020. D'oh!

Fortunately, I have had a sterilized lid and airlock on the priming bucket. I guess the most reasonable course of action at this point is to wait a few days, then take another hydrometer reading. Unfortunately, this means dumping all my sanitizer (I don't have a suitable place or receptacle to store it), and setting up again for bottling another day. I see a lot of extract brewers end up at 1.020, especially on their first go, but I'd sure hate to be wrong and bottle four dozen or more bombs. Am I right here, or am I being overly cautious?

There was some scorching on the bottom of the brew pot, and overall the wort is darker than I expected. The wort doesn't have any burned or overly bitter notes, though -- it's actually rather nice at this point. Any chance the scorching has resulted in a significant increase in the amount of unfermentable sugars in the wort?

Thanks in advance for any input!



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Old 06-20-2011, 04:05 AM   #2
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I honestly don't see a problem here. I bet it was fully fermented, but you're right to be a little cautious. 1.020 was about the norm for me when I was doing extract. Scorching would have nothing to do with it.

For future reference...ignore any instructions that come with beer kits. Often, the manufacturer has you rush through things so that it doesn't seem like it's a waiting game. I typically leave all of my beers (with the exception of wheats and IPAs) in the primary fermentor for 3-4 weeks. I skip secondary unless I'm adding something or it's a very large beer. You'll be amazing by how much better your beer gets just from sitting on the yeast for another few weeks.

On a side note, you mention wanting to move to all grain right away. I usually tell my friends who want to get into brewing... you should do at least 5-10 extract batches first. Extract brewing allows you to get the basic concepts and habits down pat before you need to start worrying about water chemistry, grist ratios, sparge volumes, etc. It's all about the fermentation anyways....get that down and you'll be making excellent beer regardless of whether it's extract or AG.

As for your sanitizer...get a spray bottle. I just have some mixed in a spray bottle and I mist everything that needs to be sanitized.



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Old 06-20-2011, 04:17 AM   #3
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I did the same thing my first time out! To your first question, No I don't think your being to cautious. I usually do 10 days in the primary,10 secondary(I assume you have no secondary at this point since your bottling). 7 days, I think is considered a minimum so a few more days would be best. I haven't had a bottle bomb for many years but everything I read 1.020 FG your in the range of possibility.

As for the scorching, well there's not much you can do now. So go with it. You'll know better after a couple weeks in the bottle. Ive seen some major changes to taste after bottle conditioning in both directions.

Ultimately, you got this far, go with it. If you continue to brew, I recommend a brew log and enter taste as you try. Its hard to wait when your new but youll see the difference and why most people have a steady stream going....

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Old 06-20-2011, 04:30 AM   #4
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I did 3 coopers kits and none finished below 1.020. RDWHAHB

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Old 06-20-2011, 05:08 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Suthrncomfrt1884 View Post
I honestly don't see a problem here. I bet it was fully fermented, but you're right to be a little cautious. 1.020 was about the norm for me when I was doing extract. Scorching would have nothing to do with it.

For future reference...ignore any instructions that come with beer kits. Often, the manufacturer has you rush through things so that it doesn't seem like it's a waiting game. I typically leave all of my beers (with the exception of wheats and IPAs) in the primary fermentor for 3-4 weeks. I skip secondary unless I'm adding something or it's a very large beer. You'll be amazing by how much better your beer gets just from sitting on the yeast for another few weeks.

On a side note, you mention wanting to move to all grain right away. I usually tell my friends who want to get into brewing... you should do at least 5-10 extract batches first. Extract brewing allows you to get the basic concepts and habits down pat before you need to start worrying about water chemistry, grist ratios, sparge volumes, etc. It's all about the fermentation anyways....get that down and you'll be making excellent beer regardless of whether it's extract or AG.

As for your sanitizer...get a spray bottle. I just have some mixed in a spray bottle and I mist everything that needs to be sanitized.
Thanks! It seems like it's probably finished, but I guess there's no harm in waiting a few days to see. I gathered pretty early on that the instructions were largely useless.

My concern in this case (maybe unjustified) is that it's just going to get hotter as summer sets in, and it may be a few weeks before I can properly manage my fermenting temperatures. I worry that letting the wort sit at 80+ degrees on top of a bunch of dead yeast isn't going to do my beer any favors, flavor-wise.

I do want to go all-grain as quickly as possible. I realize it sounds a little ambitious, but after looking over all the information about brew-in-a-bag I could get my hands on, it doesn't seem too daunting for a beginner. It also saves me a pretty significant amount on cost per batch, which will hopefully let me brew more often. Later, once I have some experience, I can decide if I want to get into the real nitty-gritty details of AG brewing. Maybe I should get my toes wet first with a partial mash?

The spray bottle is a really good idea. I suppose if I got a nice spray bottle with a decent pump, I could even use that to sanitize bottles instead of mixing up a huge batch to dunk the bottles in.

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Originally Posted by WCD View Post
I did the same thing my first time out! To your first question, No I don't think your being to cautious. I usually do 10 days in the primary,10 secondary(I assume you have no secondary at this point since your bottling). 7 days, I think is considered a minimum so a few more days would be best. I haven't had a bottle bomb for many years but everything I read 1.020 FG your in the range of possibility.

As for the scorching, well there's not much you can do now. So go with it. You'll know better after a couple weeks in the bottle. Ive seen some major changes to taste after bottle conditioning in both directions.

Ultimately, you got this far, go with it. If you continue to brew, I recommend a brew log and enter taste as you try. Its hard to wait when your new but youll see the difference and why most people have a steady stream going....
Glad I'm not alone! I guess I just got a little ahead of myself. Good thing I realized what I was doing and slowed down before I bottled a bunch of glass grenades. Once I get this batch under my belt, and my fermentation temperatures under control, I'll probably be a lot less hurried. Patience seems to be the key.

I'm not too worried about the scorching. It wasn't extensive, and there are no bad flavors that I can detect at this point. If something offputting surfaces after bottling, well, lesson learned -- turn off the damn heat and stir when adding LME. I'll tell everyone it was an experimental "burnt popcorn" flavor.

I am keeping a pretty detailed log with all my measurements and observations. I don't think it's likely that I'll hit it so out of the park with my first batch that I'll want to recreate it, but it's always nice to have data.

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Originally Posted by mikeysab View Post
I did 3 coopers kits and none finished below 1.020.
Awesome, thanks.

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RDWHAHB
I'd like to, but I have to finish this batch first!
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Old 06-20-2011, 01:11 PM   #6
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I worry that letting the wort sit at 80+ degrees on top of a bunch of dead yeast isn't going to do my beer any favors, flavor-wise.
Your yeast is far from dead...

Actually, after fermentation is completed, they still do a lot more work in the beer. They clean up off flavors that you may have created throughout the brew process. This is why I suggested leaving your beer on the yeast for 4 weeks.

80+ is going to leave you with a lot of off flavors, but it's already done fermenting, so that temp isn't going to do any more damage than it already has.
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Old 06-20-2011, 01:15 PM   #7
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Just echoing that 1.020 is a common FG when doing extract brews. AFAIK, many brands of extract contain a fair number of unfermentable sugar.

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Old 06-20-2011, 01:54 PM   #8
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No way is 1.020 normal for extract brews!! It's not the extract kit,it's the process. I've absolutely never had a cooper's-based ale finish that high. 1.012 usually,1.010 once. If you take a cooper's can to use as a base,then add 4lbs of DME,or LME,then you are going to get extra unfermentable long chain sugars that'll keep the FG at that level.
The FG's I listed is with a cooper's can (pre-hopped),with 3lbs of plain DME & 2oz of hops. If your yeast doesn't get the time it needs to attenuate well,& the temp fluctuates with ambient air temps,it can cause the yeast to go dormant. Then you come along & think it's done or dead. Not so. Just need good,relatively stable temp environment.
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Old 06-20-2011, 02:02 PM   #9
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No way is 1.020 normal for extract brews!! It's not the extract kit,it's the process. I've absolutely never had a cooper's-based ale finish that high.
*shrug* it just seems to be a common issue. I can't say anything about coopers because I never used it.

I know my extracts always finished at or just below 1.020. It didn't matter what I did - yeast starter, yeast nutrient, using an aerator, temp control, heck, even adding champagne yeast didn't help. It wasn't until I went to all grain that I got it below 1.02
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Old 06-25-2011, 10:50 PM   #10
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Just thought I'd update:

Went ahead and left it to sit for another six days. Initially there was some action from the airlock, probably just CO2 coming out of solution. Checked it again today, still reading 1.020, so I went ahead and primed and bottled. Now the really hard part begins -- resisting the urge to crack one open. Thanks for the input, all! I will report here with the results.



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