SO I've been wanting to do this for about 4 or 5 years, so Saturday I went off and bought the remainder of the gear I needed (I had a 6.5gal bucket which, interestingly enough used to be a grain bucket, so...) and a few pounds of extract, a can of coopers 'dark ale' with another 3lbs of amber LME. Sanitized everything, and kept a bucket of the stuff handy for me to dunk stuff in as I worked, 'cooked' the extract in about 2.5gal of water up to about 180F and held it there for about 15 minutes.
I loaded my sanitized bucket up about half way with cool fresh water (we have really good spring water here, no chlorine, etc, so I'm not that worried about boiling that) dumped the 'wort' in and added enough ice to bring it up to the 5gal level, covered and waited for it to get in the pitch yeast range (I waited to 89F, which I know is probably a bit high). Starting gravity was about 1.52 (edit: 1.052), adjusting for temperature. Next time I'll use more ice, but this is my learning session, so well, that was a 'learn'. I pitched in the packet of Coopers ale yeast that came with the kit and got a bit nervous when after about 4 hours it'd not done anything. Eventually I just said 'the heck with it' and went to bed, waking up to find a pretty nice fermentation going on (it was almost boiling out of the airlock) The rather 'heavy' bubbling lasted till about yesterday, and now it's slowed down to about maybe a bubble every 10 seconds or so, and here I sit.
Anyway, a few questions.
1) would you normally 'start' dry yeast with a bit of your LME in water (or just some sort of sugar in water) before pitching? Is SG 1.052 about normal as a starting gravity?
2)How long should the 'really active' part of the ferm last? Is about 2.5 days normal? I had it in my basement, and the temp there is around 59F, and I'm wondering if that's too cool for ale yeast (I've since moved it up into my bedroom where it stays in the mid 60s)
3) how do you maintain the patience to not pop the top off the thing! (I used a sterilized wine thief to get a bit of it out a few minutes ago, and shock, it tastes like beer, if a bit overly carbonated right now)