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Old 12-07-2010, 03:02 PM   #1
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Default Probably fermented too cold and too short; Have I created bottle bombs?

I wish I'd come across this website sooner. It's fantastic.

Eleven days ago I received a gift of a brew kit and extract recipe. So excited, I went straight to work brewing my first batch (a BB English Brown Ale with Notingham yeast) without first reading up on this very tricky hobby or buying all of the necessary tools. Based on the directions, I anticipated having cold beer by Christmas.

I stored the primary fermenter in my basement. The airlock bubbled nicely for about four days, and then has remained dormant for the past five or six days. I don't have a hydrometer yet, and the instructions said one week, so I went ahead and bottled last night (ten days in primary), hoping to leave about three weeks in the bottles before Christmas.

While I was racking into the bottling bucket, the beer in the primary seemed to start fermenting again -- little bubbles in the wort. Is this normal, or is it possible that fermentation was incomplete?

After doing some reading and thinking, I realized that maybe it was too cold in the basement. Although the basement temperature was about 65 degrees when I began fermentation, a cold front brought the temp down about ten degrees -- right around the same time as the bubbling subsided. Did the fermentation kick back in because I brought the primary up to room temperature in the kitchen to begin bottling?

Having already racked the beer onto the priming sugar, I figured it was too late to turn back (i.e., ferment longer in the bottling bucket). So the beer is now bottled. A sample did not taste horrible (I don't think it was contaminated), but it was very bland and seemed quite thick in texture.

A long night of research (mostly on these forums) has taught me a lot about this process, and I will correct a bunch of things with my next batch, including lengthier primary, warmer temps, and use of a hydrometer to ensure that fermentation is complete. But for the batch currently in bottles, I am wondering if it's salvageable and wondering the best way to make it work.

My first question: Have I created bottle bombs? Does the reactivation of the yeast suggest that my fermentation had merely gone dormant in the basement, and is ready to kick back in now that the beer has been bottled? My second question: What is the best tempterature at which to store the bottles? They are currently in the basement -- 55 degrees or so -- but I could use a space heater or something to warm them up if that will help things along.

Any guesses on whether I will want to serve this swill to my holiday guests? (The folks who bought me the kit are expecting something great!)

Thanks!

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Old 12-07-2010, 03:13 PM   #2
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First, the bubbles when transferring were probably just CO2 being released and not fermentation.

Without a hydrometer, you can't be certain whether fermentation was complete or not. For you current batch, I'd put them in a box (to contain possible bursting) and move them somewhere warmer for a while. Then, chill them down before you open them. (And if you are still concerned, use an oven mitt when opening them.)

As for serving it, taste it first.

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Old 12-07-2010, 03:16 PM   #3
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Honestly, it's impossible to tell. Since you didn't have a hydrometer there's no telling what that gravity was before you bottled.

Here's what I suggest: since your bottles are at 55 degrees the yeast is probably not fermenting anything including the priming sugar. Use that to your advantage. Move ONE bottle from the basement to a warmer room that's in the upper 60s or low 70s (best temperature to keep your bottles at during carbonation). Put it in a covered plastic bin or some other container. Wait a couple weeks and, if it blows, you have bottle bombs. The container should minimize collateral damage. So long as the other bottles stay cool they shouldn't blow or at least shouldn't blow as quickly.

If the bottle doesn't blow then you still may have a gusher when you open it or over-carbonated beer. Or it may be totally fine.

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Old 12-07-2010, 03:24 PM   #4
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You're probably fine, but better safe than sorry. Make sure to store those in a place where no damage will be done IF they do blow up. Try and keep the bottles in the upper 60's at least for the carbing process. Also after about 4 days I'd start putting one in the fridge over night and "testing it" the next day, every day. If they get over carbonated, or start becoming gushers you might need to worry about the bbomb thing. If they even out, and don't over carb then you're safe to age and serve (if you have any left after the "testing" process ).

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Old 12-07-2010, 08:12 PM   #5
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I have only brewed three batches, but I think I did something similar to you.

I bottled a belgian ale keg too early because my brother was in town and since he's never brewed beer I thought I'd show him the ins and outs... i cut it way too short. yes, i knew this was a bad idea when i did it lol.

One thing I noted is that the extra pressure for the most part just fizzed out of the bottle - none of them exploded. I did get a disgusting waxy taste, and when you opened them they fizzed over to the nth degree - so I didn't particularly enjoy it - but its hard to get them to explode.

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Old 12-13-2010, 04:28 PM   #6
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Thanks for the advice everybody. I've warmed all of the bottles up to room temperature, and no explosions yet. Hopefully this batch turns out okay!

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Old 12-13-2010, 05:58 PM   #7
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Correct me if I am wrong, but couldn't he get a hydrometer and open a bottle, pour it into a cylinder and take a measurement? If it reads low it would appear that it is fermented out enough to be safe. However if he gets a higher reading he could be concerned...

I would sacrifice a bottle if it meant preventing a bunch of flying glass!

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Old 12-13-2010, 07:47 PM   #8
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I have fermented a Brewers Best one for 12 days and the other for 14 days and the beer was great. I do ferment much longer now and like it better. If you follwed the priming schedule correctly, you should be OK.

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Old 12-13-2010, 07:57 PM   #9
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I am sure it will be fine. If you bottled it while the airlock was going crazy you could be in trouble. Six days with no activity is probably pretty safe. The airlock isn't the best tool for knowing if fermentation is complete, but its better than nothing (assuming is works properly).

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Old 12-13-2010, 07:58 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by juslod View Post
Correct me if I am wrong, but couldn't he get a hydrometer and open a bottle, pour it into a cylinder and take a measurement? If it reads low it would appear that it is fermented out enough to be safe. However if he gets a higher reading he could be concerned...

I would sacrifice a bottle if it meant preventing a bunch of flying glass!
You could take a hydro reading after letting some beer go flat (the co2 bubbles will get stuck to the hydrometer and throw off your reading), but that would only give you an idea of where you are at now (+ a couple points from priming sugar). Taking hydro readings before bottling (about 3 days apart) let you know the fermentation is done if they're unchanged, and whether or not you hit your mark. Depending on your process your beer may have finished high to begin with, or it might not have been finished at all. Taking a reading at this point won't let you know.

What you can do is start opening a bottle each day after 3-4 days and if they start turning into gushers then you know the pressure is getting higher than it should. If they stop getting fizzier the you know you're good to let the rest finish conditioning.
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