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Old 03-01-2014, 08:59 PM   #1
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It has been a week ago today that I brewed my first 5 gallon batch of Brewer's Best English Brown Ale. The only issue I ran into was that the water temperature did go above 170º while I was steeping the grains, so I took the pot off of the burner completely to bring the temperature down to steeping range. I'm not sure if this leeched any tannins into the wort or not, I hope not. I do not have a wort chiller so I wound up having to cool down the wort with an ice bath. I left the lid off of the pot while I slowly stirred the wort to aid in the cooling process. I put the hydrometer in the wort to take a reading and it was a little under what the specs said it should be. It is stated that the OG should be 1.045 - 1.049. When I took the reading, it was at 1.043. Would this present a problem?

I put the lid on and placed the airlock on top and it has been in my basement with a constant temperature of 72º this past week. The airlock bubbled really well the first 24-36 hours and then seemed to stop completely. Even though I cannot see inside of the plastic fermenting bucket, I am able to put a light on the backside of the bucket and see the shadows of the fermenting bubbles that are on top of the wort, so I am guessing the co2 is escaping from some other area.

I have read both of the pro's and con's of transferring the wort into a secondary fermenter. My local brew supply store recommends to everyone to transfer into a secondary, although they did tell me that many people do well with just leaving it in the primary without transferring. I have been reading John Palmer's How To Brew. I have the latest revision book. He does talk about secondary fermenting and the risks involved in transferring into a secondary. However he did mention at the end of the fermenting chapter that leaving the wort in the primary fermenter can result in off flavors if they sit on the trub for too long.

So... Being that it is about that time that I should transfer into a secondary, should I? Or should I just leave it sit in the primary and not worry about transferring it into the secondary at all?

Another question that I have is concerning taking hydrometer readings. I have not opened the lid on my primary since it was placed the day I brewed. I really do not want to contaminate the beer at all. How vital is it that I take a hydrometer reading in relation to the risk of contaminating the brew by opening the lid? If I were to transfer the beer into a secondary, I would definitely take a hydrometer reading at that time. Also, if and when I do take a hydrometer reading, if I have the hydrometer test tube and the hydrometer sanitized, would you suggest I return the wort that I use in the hydrometer reading back into the wort or just to pour it down the drain?

How long do I leave the wort in the primary before bottling? If I secondary, then how long do I leave the wort in the secondary before bottling?

Thanks!

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Old 03-01-2014, 09:07 PM   #2
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.043 is only .002 off which is not bad.

Just because you don't see bubbles in the air lock doesn't mean it's done. I'd wait a week. After two weeks take a sample then wait a few days and take another and a few days later another, etc, until the fermentation is complete. Leaving the beer on the trub for a few weeks is not too long. Three months... maybe.

If you do decide to rack to a secondary be sure to clean and sanitize everything that will touch your beer very well.

When I take my sample I do not return it to the beer. Ever.

Bottle when fermentation is complete as determined by successive hydrometer readings over several days.

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Old 03-01-2014, 09:26 PM   #3
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Your beer can develop off flavors if left in the primary too long.....but too long seems to be many months. Letting it stay in the primary for 6 weeks should be no problem if you should happen to have that much patience.

Extracting tannins requires a pH over 6 along with the high temperature so there is a very slim chance that happened.

Beer is fairly difficult to infect. It's acidic, it has hops which are antiseptic, it has alcohol in it, and it has a layer of CO2 over it in the primary. You can take your hydrometer samples without worrying overly about infection. Use a wine thief or turkey baster to get you sample and sanitize it before taking the sample and never pour the sample back into the fermenter. Instead, drink it. It will give you a slight hint on what your beer will be like when it is ready to drink.

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Old 03-01-2014, 11:19 PM   #4
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1) There's no valid reason to secondary a brown ale in spite of what those kit instructions and your LHBS say. That's outdated brew knowledge initially based on commercial practices that don't apply to our little 5 gallon batches. All you would be doing is creating extra work for yourself and increasing the risk of oxidation. Leave it in the primary at least 2 weeks, take one hydro reading. Wait four days, take another. If the numbers are the same, it's OK to prime/bottle. It takes way longer than that to get any sort of off-flavors from letting it sit on the yeast.

2) Next time you brew, pitch and ferment in the 63-65*F (beer temp, not air) range if at all possible. The main reason that it was so active the first couple of days is that your 72*F ambient basement likely gave you a ferment temp closer to 80*F during the peak activity. Don't be too surprised if you taste some off-flavors in this batch. Extra time bottle conditioning might help some of those mellow out. What yeast did you use? (hopefully not Nottingham)

3) Don't return the hydro sample to the fermenter. Why risk infection of a whole batch for that tiny bit of beer? Taste it to see what character it has. It will hopefully taste like flat brown ale. A turkey baster is a useful tool for getting a sample out of the bucket.
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Old 03-01-2014, 11:45 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigFloyd View Post
1) There's no valid reason to secondary a brown ale in spite of what those kit instructions and your LHBS say. That's outdated brew knowledge initially based on commercial practices that don't apply to our little 5 gallon batches. All you would be doing is creating extra work for yourself and increasing the risk of oxidation. Leave it in the primary at least 2 weeks, take one hydro reading. Wait four days, take another. If the numbers are the same, it's OK to prime/bottle. It takes way longer than that to get any sort of off-flavors from letting it sit on the yeast.

2) Next time you brew, pitch and ferment in the 63-65*F (beer temp, not air) range if at all possible. The main reason that it was so active the first couple of days is that your 72*F ambient basement likely gave you a ferment temp closer to 80*F during the peak activity. Don't be too surprised if you taste some off-flavors in this batch. Extra time bottle conditioning might help some of those mellow out. What yeast did you use? (hopefully not Nottingham)

3) Don't return the hydro sample to the fermenter. Why risk infection of a whole batch for that tiny bit of beer? Taste it to see what character it has. It will hopefully taste like flat brown ale. A turkey baster is a useful tool for getting a sample out of the bucket.
BigFloyd, just so I am understanding exactly - I don't take a hydrometer reading until after 2 weeks after the wort has been fermenting in the primary, not sooner? That is fine, I am very patient when I need to be.

I pitched and fermented when the wort temperature was around 73º. I have the sticky thermometer that is on the outside of the primary bucket that I am going off of in relation to the temperature. I also have a burlap sack shielding the sides of the fermenter from light in the nearby room. Not sure if this is needed - there is absolutely no sunlight coming in where it is located.

I used the yeast that was included in the Brewer's Best ingredient kit that I purchased, and it was Nottingham. What is wrong with Nottingham yeast?

I'll make sure that I do not return the wort sample back into the wort. I'll taste it as mentioned.
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Old 03-02-2014, 12:52 AM   #6
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Two weeks is a guideline but a good one to follow. Giving it two weeks in primary typically allows the fermentation to complete and then allows the yeast to clean up after themselves and also allows the beer to clear out.

If you start checking gravity sooner you may find its not done then you end up doing more readings than if you just waited longer to check and end up pulling more beer out to make sure you're at a final gravity.

I'm not familiar with Nottingham yeast myself but based on the way BigFloyd mentioned it I'm guessing it has a habit of throwing out off flavors at higher temps.

And definitely don't pour your sample down the drain. It may not be finished beer but its still beer and like said above will give you an idea of what your final product is going to be like.

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Old 03-02-2014, 01:07 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Photohype View Post
BigFloyd, just so I am understanding exactly - I don't take a hydrometer reading until after 2 weeks after the wort has been fermenting in the primary, not sooner? That is fine, I am very patient when I need to be.

I used the yeast that was included in the Brewer's Best ingredient kit that I purchased, and it was Nottingham. What is wrong with Nottingham yeast?

I'll make sure that I do not return the wort sample back into the wort. I'll taste it as mentioned.
BigFloyd will give you good counsel. He has helped me a lot and I appreciate it when he takes a minute to share his views.

That being said, with the warm fermentation temperatures you used your beer will probably be done in far less than two weeks. 5-8 days may be closer. But the only way to know when it is done is to take hydrometer readings. Follow the recommendations posted by others in this thread and you'll do fine.

Nottingham yeast is an excellent strain but it really prefers cooler temperatures. I'm talking 58F-64F. High temperatures with this yeast strain will almost certainly yield some off flavors. As BigFloyd advised, they may subside with bottle aging.

I certainly wouldn't bother with a secondary at this stage in your brewing. The use of a secondary vessel can be useful when used as a settling tank before cold crashing, but it is a step that can be bypassed without doing any harm to your finished beer.
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Old 03-02-2014, 04:41 AM   #8
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I appreciate the vote of confidence Puddle.

Photohype, I was afraid that it was indeed Nottingham that they included in that kit. It's a great dry yeast and I have used it for quite a few batches (and still do), but it has a cooler temp range than other ale yeast, much cooler than those kit instructions no doubt led you to believe. It will successfully ferment as cool as 55*F (yep, I've used it that cold - very clean) the first few days. That strain is, however, especially notorious for producing some pretty funky off-flavors when allowed to get above 68*F (beer temp) during the most active phases of a fermentation.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it's better that you know the unvarnished truth so that you can develop a way that works for you to keep future batches cooler, particularly during the first few days when nearly all of the unwanted flavors are produced.

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