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Old 05-12-2009, 01:56 AM   #1
mlutha
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Default Fermenter Too Cold(?)...impending doom(?)

I just bottled my first batch this weekend and my unbridled enthusiasm is now quite tempered after connecting some dots. I brewed a True Brew IPA recipe kit. It came with Muntons Ale Yeast (dry). All went well at first, I cooked it up and got it into my fermenter bucket, and brought it down to my basement and set it on the cold concrete floor (more on that later). Within 12 hours the bubbles were roiling out of the airlock. After about 36 hours, bubbling stopped, and didn't appear again for the next two weeks I kept it in the fermenter. When I pushed down on the cover of the fermenter bucket, it forced bubbles out of the airlock, so I figured all was fine.

So this weekend, after 2 weeks in the fermenter, I was ready for bottling. Opening the fermenter, there was about an inch and a half of kreusening gunk on top of the brew, which I took to be a good sign. But when I took a hydrometer reading, it was very high based on the range indicated on the recipe kit. It measured 1.020, instead of the 1.012 - 1.014 (without correcting for temperature. Not sure if it's relevant, but I didn't take an initial hydrometer reading - the recipe kit says the beginning SG is 1.050-1.052). This being my first batch, I said 'oh well', and bottled. I hadn't taken any hydrometer readings throughout the fermentation period, instead relying on the simplified instructions in the kit that it would be ready to bottle in 1 week. I figured I'd incorporate the hydrometer reading into my second batch. So, I sampled the hydrometer flask brew and it tasted flat, obviously, but quite malty/fruity/tea-ey (I don't have a descriptive palate yet). I figured it would continue maturing, bottled it up and started doing some more reading in the Papazian book.

There I read that ale yeast should ferment in the 60-70 degree range. That got me thinking, and I searched the beginner forum here on the topic, and found many posts indicating that 59 degrees was the lowest acceptable value for ale yeast. Remembering back for the past two weeks, I'm pretty certain that the average temperature shown the stick-on thermometer on the side of the fermenter bucket was 58 degrees. Also, I just went down and took the temp of my basement floor and it's 58 degrees.

My newbie deducting is that the initial temp in the fermenter was adequate for the yeast to start digesting, but as the liquid cooled below 60 degrees, within 36 hours or so, the yeast were knocked out of acceptable temp range, stopped digesting, and thus my malty brew with the high SG reading.

In hindsight, I'm guessing that there likely was some fermenting occurring within the two weeks by some hearty yeasties, albeit very slowly. If I would've left it fermenting and continued taking hydrometer readings, I'm guessing it would've kept slowly lowering nearer the target values, yes?

So, I guess I'm looking for some criticism on my deductive reasoning here, and what I should expect with the batch results. I'm guessing it'll be a low alcohol syrupy beer, yes? Hopefully I'm overstating the syrupy part. I've seen enough warnings here to never give up on a non-spoiled batch, and am certainly not planning to - although I may not talk it up as much to friends/family if I'm in for a dud. Appreciate any wisdom you have to impart - I'll be back on the horse this weekend for my second batch!


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Old 05-12-2009, 02:14 AM   #2
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Wow, that was a lot of information. A few thoughts as they come to me:

1) if the ambient air (and floor) temp is 58 degrees, then it is likely that the temp in the fermenter was a bit higher because active fermentation actually raises the temperature of the beer a few degrees.

2) It is not uncommon, and actually quite common, that after 36 hrs the rate o fermentation will slow, and with it bubbling will slow considerably. This doesn't mean that it isn't still fermenting. It could be a minute between bubbles and the beer would still be actively fermenting.

3)Your SG readings really are not that far off. 1.014 to 1.020 is really not that far off. Also, if the beer is a little cold as you say, then a correct reading at 60 degrees this will lower the SG slightly. All these things could combine to explain your marginally high SG reading.

4)Temp - As far as I know, there is no specific temperature at which ale yeast will stop working and fall out. Generally Ale yeast perform best between 60-70. 58, or 59 is not going to all of a sudden prevent fermentation. It just might be slower than usual or produce some off flavors. But if you are worried that you halted fermentation, I wouldn't worry about it.


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Old 05-12-2009, 02:17 AM   #3
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Do a search for "bottle bombs" - then read posts by Revvy about patience.

I've never bottled, so I can't speak from experience but I think you have lots of fermentable left, so the yeast are about to get very, very busy and put your bottles under immense preasure.

If you do manage to avoid any shrapnel, I think the beer will be ok, just sweet and light on the ABV.

A learning experience for your first brew.

Maybe someone more experienced with bottles can chime in, but I would even consider emptying the bottles back to fermentation for another few weeks.
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Old 05-12-2009, 02:26 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pangea View Post
Maybe someone more experienced with bottles can chime in, but I would even consider emptying the bottles back to fermentation for another few weeks.
-1 on this.

If your beer is in bottles, the risk of pouring the beer back into a fermenter is greater than the desired benefit. Oxygenation and infection come immediately to mind. What's done is done.
Let the beer age. Observe the bottle caps. If you see them becoming convex, you might need to recap the bottles. Also, it may be prudent to put this batch into a rubbermaid storage tub as an insurance policy, but you probably won't need it.

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Old 05-12-2009, 02:35 AM   #5
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Yes, I agree with Pangea watch out for bottle bombs. Chalk this up for a first time brew. We all started out the same way. I bottle all the time. I would check on your bottles and crack one open every few days to see what kind of carbonation was buidling up. I would not empty the bottle back into the fermentation bucket. You could let the beer ferment in the bottles and recap, or chalk this up as a learning experence. better luck on the second batch.
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Old 05-12-2009, 03:41 AM   #6
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I don't think you'll have a serious problem. I'm fermenting a cream ale right now that I've got on the extreme low end of the temp range in a homemade cooler I put together from a 24 qt dish pan and some blue frozen ice packs. Your hydrometer reading, as you say, wasn't adjusted for temperature, and even then I just got done calibrating mine (checking at the rated temp it is +.001 and the temp adjustment card is way off). I think from now on me and you would benefit from taking our samples, chilling them to the rated reading and then measuring them.

As far as the temp inside the bucket being higher +1. I just did a Hefe Weizen (a wheat beer) and I had run away temps inside the carboy even with the AC cranked to the point I couldn't take it. Now Hefes ferment very strongly, but I am sure its the case in all fermentation that it increases the temps and plastic isn't a very good conductor of heat, so I wouldn't be bothered by a 1 degree negative reading on a fermenting strip.

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Old 05-12-2009, 01:04 PM   #7
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Default thanks for the advice

thanks all for the replies. I'll keep a close eye on things and take some precautions against potential bottle bombs, but hope for the best.


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