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Old 08-09-2010, 10:32 AM   #1
Aug 2010
Posts: 13

Hey, I've been lurking for a while but finally decided to post :P

3 friends and I decided to brew some beer in retaliation to some other friends who told us they'd let us brew with them... and then (intentionally) didn't tell us

In return we decided to start brewing some SECRET beer. More specifically, two extract batches: a pilsner and an IPA.

The pilsner is with a dry malt extract and the IPA is with a liquid malt extract. Both brews are 23L.

Some of our equipment is new and some is old. We had to buy a second primary fermenter (5 or 6 gallon bucket), a new siphon hose, thermometer, etc.

A participating friend's dad had brewed beer in the past so we had some stuff from him:
-two 23L carboys
-the "drop stick" or whatever the attachment to the end of the syphon is called (lol)

and on and on.......

I'm just wondering where we've screwed up (because I know we must've... haha) so if anyone could give some constructive criticism that would be great... any criticism is deserved, I'm sure, anyways.

Specifically: sanitation, transferring (by siphon) and the whole primary-secondary fermenting/fermentation

Keep in mind the brewing is not being done at my house so I don't have specifics on hand right now.

Day 1:
-cleaned out the buckets with soap and water, rinsed etc.
-sanitized with a sodium metabisulfate solution. (we simply poured a cup or so of the solution into each bucket, stuck the lids on for a few minutes and then poured it out and rinsed the bucket... should we have used a different/better sanitizer?)
-mixed the cans of goo with water as per instructions... it was a no boil kit as far as the guy at the store told us. should we have boiled it/them?
-topped up the buckets with purified water (free with each can of brew we bought at the store )
-allowed to come down to appropriate temp... the yeast was added and we popped the tops on and waited about 8 or 9 days (i think)

The instructions we were given told us to transfer into the secondary fermenters at the point of a specific gravity of 1.020 to 1.015. We racked at 1.020. I know one of our first mistakes (already) was that we didn't record an initial specific gravity reading.

At day 8 or 9 or 10, we checked the specific gravity (probably improperly) by washing off the hydrometer, dropping it into the primary fermenter, giving it a spin and then reading off of it. I know it came in a tube and I'm sure we probably should have used it but do people usually siphon into the tube to get a reading? Is it ok to just test in the buckets?

-we cleaned and sanitized our 23L carboys (with the sodium metabisulfate solution, again)
-siphoned (BY MOUTH) each brew into their respective buckets
-cleaned the bungs and airlocks, filled with water and stuck them in

I feel like siphoning by mouth would be an easy way to get an infection in the beer. Is there a better way to draw on the liquid or is this normal for homebrewers?

This might sound stupid but with our mixing spoon, should we be wearing gloves or just being careful to not touch the part of the spoon that is entering the liquid?

We're currently waiting for our secondary fermentation to settle down so we can begin bottling (we first have to buy bottles... cheaper is better, any reccomendations? we're thinking large PET bottles so we don't have to buy so many :P )

Any other tips before we bottle? Thanks!

/goes back to lurking

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Old 08-09-2010, 12:25 PM   #2
Hang Glider
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Mar 2007
North Augusta, SC
Posts: 3,218
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Come back in three years- we do not support underage brewing/drinking.

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Old 08-09-2010, 12:40 PM   #3
Feb 2010
Baltimore, MD
Posts: 1,875
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Originally Posted by Hang Glider View Post
Come back in three years- we do not support underage brewing/drinking.
Legal drinking age in Canada varies from 18 to 19. This guy's profile says he's 19.


#1 Beer should never be brewed out of spite, hate, or retaliation. The yeast can feel negative vibes and you'll only end up with a light American lager because they will be apathetic and not do a good job.

#2 I see sanitation errors in "washing off" the hydrometer (not sanitizing) and dropping it straight into the buckets. You may have introduced something there. But since we don't know what the OG was, we can'ttell how much alcohol was in the brew that might be able to counteract the infection. You should get a graduated cylinder if the tube the hydrometer came in isn't water-tight (mine wasn't).

#3 Siphon by mouth? I did that when I first started by gargling with vodka beforehand. I got lucky and never had an infection but wouldn't recommend it. Google "Auto-Siphon" and get one. Also good StarSan, which is a great sanitizer.

Can't give you any advice on the kit becuase I've never used a no-boil kit. But RDWHAHB (google it) and best of luck.
http://smokebubbles.wordpress.com - Brewin' and 'Quein' since last Tuesday.

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Old 08-09-2010, 12:41 PM   #4
maxamuus's Avatar
Apr 2010
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Well in his defense he is in Canada and 19 is legal there.

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Old 08-09-2010, 12:50 PM   #5
Oct 2008
Posts: 477
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Originally Posted by Hang Glider View Post
Come back in three years- we do not support underage brewing/drinking.
Breakfast's location = Canada. I believe this makes him legal at 19.

I don't know about the specific sanitizer you used.

I've read that even no-boil kits will produce better results if you boil them for an hour.

As long as you sanitized the hydrometer, you should be fine, but generally you'll take a sample with a wine thief, turkey baster, or (in my case) a sanitized glass measuring cup, then poor it into the tube provided to take the reading. It's easier to read, plus you get to drink the sample and see how it's progressing.

I would definitely try not to siphon by mouth if you have a choice. Autosiphons are cheap, but in a pinch, try filling the tubing with sanitized water up close to the top, then when you release the water, it should draw up the beer. (I'm sure there's a much better description of this in a thread here somewhere.)

Keep lurking around and you'll find all you need to know on this site. Good luck!
I like a little more beer in my beer.

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Old 08-09-2010, 12:54 PM   #6
DeNomad's Avatar
Aug 2010
Posts: 310
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19 is definitely legal in Canada.

we first have to buy bottles... cheaper is better, any reccomendations? we're thinking large PET bottles so we don't have to buy so many :P
Buy bottles?? Naw. I'd say just go to a friends party or host your own and collect empties the next morning. You might need 8 dozen for a 23 L batch though. Anyway that's the poor student in me talking.

The brew is likely fine although it sounds like it was racked prematurely. Just wait and see how it turns out. Let them sit in the bottles for a whole 2 weeks minimum as well. As for siphoning by mouth... it's not good practice but when I do that I use my sanitized hand to grab the end of the tube and put my mouth on the hand to start it going.

Regarding gloves... naw... I usually get sanitizer all over my hands cleaning everything anyway so just don't touch anything dirty until your finished.

Bottling tips:
- If the bottles are old check for mold in the bottom. If there is put the bottles in a tub of hot bleach solution and let it sit overnight. Should lift out any mold and probably remove labels.
- Buy San Star and a vinator (google vinator). That will make bottling much less painful. San Star is no rinse so don't worry about the foam or bubbles, it won't hurt you or the beer.

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Old 08-09-2010, 01:07 PM   #7
SoonerDoc's Avatar
Mar 2010
Oklahoma City
Posts: 396
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How do you know you've screwed up? I didn't see anything in your post (unless I missed it) stating what the problem was.

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Old 08-09-2010, 01:38 PM   #8
Jul 2010
San Antonio
Posts: 45

I second the StarSan and auto-siphon mentioned by Jetsmooth. However, as a former broke college student myself, I understand the need for getting by on the cheap.

You should check out "How to Brew" by Palmer. He has alot of suggestions for cleaning and sanitizing with products you might already have. Your local library might even have a copy. Best of luck with this batch, I'm sure it will be better than you expect.

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Old 08-09-2010, 01:56 PM   #9
Licensed Sensual Massage Therapist.
Homercidal's Avatar
Feb 2008
Reed City, MI
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I still siphon by mouth. But I use a "T" adapter with no real possibility of infecting the wort. And that is only from the boil kettle when I can't use my autosiphon.

So yeah, you want to do it cheap, but Star San is required IMO. Or iodophor if you prefer, but I like StarSan.

But when it comes down to it, there is a very good chance that your beer is just fine. Have you tasted it? Is it sour? Does it have stringy tentacles growing in the fermenter, or fuzzy mold?

Keep in mind that your beer will probably not taste great until it's aged properly. And the Pilsner requires lager yeast and lager yeast temps to successfully brew. It may end up with some funkiness in the end, but still plenty drinkable.

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Old 08-09-2010, 01:59 PM   #10
edecambra's Avatar
Jun 2010
Tampa, Fl
Posts: 944
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Yeah as far as bottling goes, collect old bottles. Reduce, reuse, recycle! You are going to have to clean and sanitize any new bottles you get anyway. If you can find any washing soda to dissolve the adhesive from the labels you basically have new bottles.

Also My LHBS sells their used bottles, 24 for 10 bucks, with the labels already removed. It is much cheaper than buying 24 bottles of beer, since the pry off bottles are usually the more expensive beer anyway.

Don't use the large PET bottles, how will you carb the beer or keep it good for extended periods of time? I am pretty sure the only way to bottle less is either get larger beer bottles ( 22 oz bomber bottles) which can get pricey, Belgian bottles, which you have to cork and can get really pricey, I think used champagne bottles ( cheap north American champagne though, to accept regular bottle caps. Check on this though), or of course kegging, which is the most expensive but easiest for sure.

I am still pretty new to this too, I am on only my 5th batch. It is not a hobby though, it is an obsession. I hope you have more self restraint than I do. I am a poor student too and have spent way too much money that I do not have on this. But I have enjoyed every moment of it! RDWHAHB

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