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Old 05-18-2007, 06:43 AM   #1
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Default Specific gravity too high for my liking

So Sunday before last, I boiled up my first batch of homebrew in just over twenty years. I chose a 5 gallon recipe for Newcastle style brown ale, which called for 6lbs of amber syrup and 24oz of assorted grains. I completed the boil, strained into my primary, and when the wort was down to about 75 degrees I pitched my (activated and firmly swollen!) smack pack of Wyeast #1275.

By Monday morning, the wort was fermenting nicely, and the airlock bubbled about every 6 seconds. This continued for the next two days, but by late Wednesday night the bubbling seemed to have ceased entirely. I was using a white bucket for a primary, so I couldn't see the activity inside...the airlock was my only guide.

In accordance with the 1-2-3 rule, I left the beer in the primary until the following Sunday afternoon, when I racked into a 5 gallon carboy. There was a good inch of sludge left in the primary, and I only managed to get about 4.5 gallons of clear beer. It looked gorgeous in the carboy, pristine and clear and very "Newcastley" in color.

So tonight I was digging through some storage boxes, and found my old hydrometer. (Which I never, ever bothered to use in the old days.) So, I drew a sample and tested it. 1.045 was the temperature adjusted reading, which oddly enough is exactly what the recipe states the starting gravity should be. So now I'm starting to worry.

What has happened here? I know I had a VERY vigorous fermentation going for at least a few days, and it seems like the specific gravity should be lower than that after ten nights. I wish I'd found the hydrometer earlier, so I could have measured right after the boil...or maybe I wish I'd never found it at all! Was my fermentation somehow tragically stopped, abruptly and prematurely? There is currently about 1/4" of sludge in the bottom of the carboy, but I don't know if it's from continuing fermentation, or simply settlement from the initial stages of fermentation. The beer itself remains clear and dead calm, with no bubbles or other signs of activity.

What's my next move? Just relax and wait? Re-pitch? I'd like to think that everything is cool, but it sure seems there is way too much sugar left in that brew. I'm starting to miss the carefree days when I didn't bother to measure, and my beer came out good anyhow!

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Old 05-18-2007, 06:52 AM   #2
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What does the hydometer read in plain water? Should be 1.000, if not, there's your problem, those things are pretty fragile and don't work anymore if even the smallest crack is in it.

No way after 3 days of fermentation that your SG is that high, throw away the hydrometer if you never needed it before and it only causes worry, and if it's broken.

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Old 05-18-2007, 07:14 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ilikestuff
What does the hydometer read in plain water? Should be 1.000, if not, there's your problem, those things are pretty fragile and don't work anymore if even the smallest crack is in it.
I checked it right away with plain water, and it reads 1.000.

More accurately, it reads 0. It's a little different than most I've seen, in that in the middle of the (handwritten!) scale is a red zero, and it's numbered from 1 to 5 both up and down, with nine tick marks between each digit. Unless I'm mistaken, it's designed to measure from .0950 to 1.050.
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Old 05-18-2007, 07:23 AM   #4
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If you're reading that right, it's the wrong kind of hydrometer anyway, not for beer. You need a beer & wine hydrometer, mine reads from .990 to 1.170. No beer you have will EVER ferment to .9 let alone .09, and many beers are well above the 1.050 range.

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Old 05-18-2007, 07:33 AM   #5
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after fermenting two days, it should have dropped well below that. i'd say there is something wrong with teh hydrometer.

still, you should get a good reading before you bottle and make sure that sucker is finished.

hydrometer readings are like doctors. get a second opinion

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Old 05-18-2007, 07:46 AM   #6
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Hmmnn...I am suspicious of this thing. It was included in my LHBS starter kit two decades ago. I suspect it was originally intended for candy making. Written on the opposite side of the scale is "Sugar (Brix or Balling) Temp. 20c or 66F. Made in U.S.A. 88-837."

Damn...is this thing calibrated to measure brix!?!? Plugging 4.5 into the equation for converting brix to SG puts me at 1.01767 which is a heckuva lot closer to where it should be!

Edit: over the past half hour, I've just done a LOT of research on hydrometers and now I feel a bit silly. Sure enough, mine is calibrated with the Brix/Balling scale, for measuring ounces of sugar per gallon. (Named for Karl Balling and Adolf F. Brix, who knew!) Thanks guys, for convincing me that something was awry in hydrometer land. Looks like my Newcastle is right on track!

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Old 05-18-2007, 11:57 AM   #7
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Well, at least you figured it out and the beer is going to be good!

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Old 05-18-2007, 03:44 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yooper Chick
Well, at least you figured it out and the beer is going to be good!
You said it! I've never been so happy to have made a mistake. I think I'll pick up another hydrometer, one I can read without breaking out the calculator.

Man, this stuff looks amazing, very clear and with a beautiful color. This is the first time I've used a secondary, and it appears to be paying off. The Irish moss might be helping too. My carboy looks like a giant, dark amber jewel, which visually is a big improvement over the hazy stuff I used to make. Another nine days, and into the bottles it goes.
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Old 05-19-2007, 07:16 AM   #9
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Congratulations man, I hope it turns out great, sounds like it will. Welcome back to homebrewing,

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