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Old 08-26-2009, 02:12 AM   #1
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Default OG Pretty Low--Am I Stuck With Weak Beer?

I did a partial-mash six gallon brown ale kit on Saturday. Came with (just guesstimating) five pounds of grains, seven pounds of light LME and Windsor yeast. The instructions to these kits say to put the grains in 2 gallons of 150 degree water for 30 minutes; strain the grains out, add the LME and hops, boil for 55 minutes, add the finishing hops and boil for five more minutes. When the wort cools appropriately after adding what was boiled to the appropriate amount of water to make 6 gallons, hydrate the yeast with a tbsp. of dextrose in 1/2 cup water then pitch.

I might have gotten cocky. After reading lots on HBT I thought it was silly not to rinse the grains after straining, so I did. I captured the water from that then boiled more like 3 gallons (had to split into two pots, one with about two gallons and one with about three. I "eyeballed" the LME between the pots 2/3 to 1/3). After that I proceeded as normal. Strained the wort into my primary then used an ice bath to cool to about 72 degrees before pitching. Measured OG at 1.040 before pitching. I was perhaps a quart over the 6 gallon mark.

Got what appeared to be a nice (but not overly vigorous) fermentation going within a day, by yesterday (Monday) it was doing very little and the SG was down to 1.016. Today it was at 1.013 and I don't expect much more to happen.

According to a site calculating alcohol content for me, if the SG on this beer does not drop further it will be 3.5% ABV. So my question is should I just take my lumps and hope this turns out to be a great brown ale that just doesn't have a very high ABV? Or is there a way I can try to get fermentation going again with another yeast to try to get down to about 1.005 which would give me 4.6% ABV? After my description can anyone identify anything that went wrong with this process? Was it dumb to deviate from the instructions by going with a bigger boil?

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Old 08-26-2009, 02:25 AM   #2
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Is it possible your OG reading was off? I would expect 7 pounds of LME alone to come in a bit higher but the extra water may throw it off a bit.

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Old 08-26-2009, 03:13 AM   #3
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5 lb of grain and 7 lb of extract should have put you at around 1.060. But 5 lb of grain seems a lot for a store brought PM kit. 1 lb of grain (sounds more reasonable) would give a predicted OG of 1.044 for an ABV of around 4%. So either (a) your OG reading was 20 points off (from not mixing top-off water?) or (b) you did not have 5 lb of grain. Or some combination thereof...

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Old 08-26-2009, 07:32 PM   #4
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i wouldnt try to dry out a brown ale past 1010... i would think you would lose some of the sweetness/flavor of the residual sugars. IMHO, a weaker tasty beer is better.

maybe you could just boil some dme and add it to the fermenter to boost it up?

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Old 08-27-2009, 12:08 AM   #5
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Thanks for the words of advice everyone. I talked to the kit maker and he said OG of 1.045 to 1.050 is normal. He suggested I could have gotten an incorrect reading if the wort had started to settle out when I took the reading. I suppose this is possible but having watched the fermentation on ten or so kits now I know this fermentation was short and didn't seem that vigorous. But I'll rack the beer to the secondary soon (SG still at 1.013), give it a month in the carboy and another in bottles and see what it's like.

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Old 08-27-2009, 12:17 AM   #6
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i dont know why i didnt think of this before... but do you know what temp you took the reading? you would really have to take a hot reading to get a huge change, but if you took a reading at 80 degrees and the hydro is meant for 60 that would be a few points...

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Old 08-27-2009, 12:28 AM   #7
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It's a pretty common issue for ANYONE using extract and then topping off with water (and that includes partial mashes) to have an error in reading the OG...In fact, it is actually nearly impossible to mix the wort and the top off water in a way to get an accurate OG reading...

When I am doing an extract with grain recipe I make sure to stir for a minimum of 5 minutes (whipping up a froth to aerate as well) before I draw a grav sample and pitch my yeast....It really is an effort to integrate the wort with the top off water...This is a fairly common new brewer issue we get on here...unless you under or over topped off or the final volume for the kit was 5 gallons and you topped off to 5, then the issue, sorry to say, is "operator error"

it doesn't matter what your reading was.....the "real reading" in an extract batch is what it said it would be in the recipe or beersmith....Whether or not you mixed it up enough before you took the reading it mixed itself up fine during fermentation.

So unless you had a final volume a gallon or so higher than 5 gallons....you recipe will be fine and at the OG it was supposed to be,

I bet your OG is EXACTLY what it is supposed to be.

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Old 08-27-2009, 12:36 AM   #8
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What Revvy said. Mixing concentrated wort and water isn't easy. I usually have my assistant brewer (child labor) stir for a minute or two, then I take my sample while she is still stirring just to make sure I get a good mixed sample. That thicker liquid will sink right to the bottom and the plain water will float on top.

You can even end up with a reading that's really high if you get your sample from the bottom with a turkey baster or wine thief.

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Old 08-27-2009, 03:13 AM   #9
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Thanks for the follow-ups; greatly appreciate the advice and will consider this a learning experience!

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Old 08-27-2009, 03:34 PM   #10
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+1 for incomplete mixture of wort and topoff water

7# of LME should be good for at least 1.04 to 1.045

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