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Old 08-16-2012, 06:19 PM   #1
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Default Bad Hydrometer reading or stuck fermentation?

Hey guys,

I've been a long time reader of this forum, and finally decided to try and brew my own beer, and now I find myself registering and asking a question of my own,

Two weeks ago I bought a starter kit and cooper's English Bitter. The kit was supposed to have a hydrometer in it, but it didnt.

So anyways I started this batch, mostly following the guy at the store's directions, and the ones on the sheet. The guy at the store told me to add 500 grams of sugar, which I did. Then I realised I had brushed over the part in the instructions where it said "except english bitter", so that was mistake number one.

Mistake number two was boiling too much water, I tried to reduce it, but the extract started to burn and I didnt want to get it too hot, so I put it in with some distilled water and let it cool for a couple hours while stirring to vent the heat.

After a couple hours I got it down to 95f/35c, and went to take a reading with the hydrometer, and whoops, it wasnt there! Lol. So I know from reading the forum not to let the wort sit too long, so I pitched. It was hot and messy, but within 24 hours it was down to 24c, and settling at 22c within 48 hours.

Mistake number three was when I realised the pale he gave me, which he said was 23litres, is actually about 30, and I had filled it to where he said when he said it was a 23 litre pale, so I think there may be an abundance of water, maybe the extra sugar I added will take care of that, who knows.

Anyways, here I am two weeks later, and I take a hydrometer reading (went back to the store and they were great about it). My reading is 1.020 and there are small streams of bubbles almost like a glass of gingerale but not quite, maybe half flat gingerale. It tastes a bit like vodka at first sip, then you taste the beer afterwards, the beer taste is excellent, the vodka taste not so much. I know people describe a solvent like off flavour when pitching too hot, but this just tastes like pure alcohol.

So anyhow, am I somehow getting bubble forming on my hydrometer giving me a bad reading? Should I let it sit longer in the fermenter? Anywas I can be sure of my hydrometer reading?

Since I don't have an OG I can't calculate the content mathematically, but I would put this stuff at about 7 or 8 percent based on other beers I've tasted with higher abv.

Any thoughts?

Reason: spelling
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Old 08-16-2012, 06:28 PM   #2
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Spin the hydrometer, the bubbles will fly off.

Fermenting at warm temps will most certainly make a "alcoholy" beer. Try to keep ales below 70F.

- Andrew
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Old 08-17-2012, 09:39 PM   #3
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Take your readings and confirm Final Gravity. Then let it sit for another week or two, some of those flavors may clean themselves up but more important is to not put too much into your initial tastes. Once the beer is conditioned and carbonated things should taste better
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Old 08-17-2012, 10:00 PM   #4
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Also make sure you adjust your hydrometer reading for temperature. They are typically calibrated at 60F. There are online calculators for this.
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Old 08-17-2012, 10:07 PM   #5
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As mentioned, spinning the hydrometer can help you make sure you are getting a good reading. If you are concerned with the accuracy of the hydrometer, you can also take a reading in pure water. If you put your hydrometer in plain water it should read 1.000, assuming your water is close to the temperature at which the hydrometer was calibrated (hopefully that is written on it somewhere).

If you know the weight of the malt extract you added, you can estimate what your initial gravity was, even though you couldn't take a reading. Malt extracts and sugars have pretty predictable gravity contributions. Do you know how much extract by weight you added? Also, what type of sugar did you add, plain table sugar or something else? If you know those things, I can help with estimating your initial gravity if you want.

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Old 08-17-2012, 10:51 PM   #6
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Fermenting at high temps will often produce fusel alcohols. That is probably the strong alcohol/solvent taste you are getting. Unfortunately, they don't go away.
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Old 08-18-2012, 01:13 AM   #7
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My advice is that you have learnt a good lesson about preparation and care in brewing and if it was mine I would dump it and start from scratch.

Coopers kits are ok if all instructions and recommendations are followed but this one went off the rails. The likelihood is the beer will be less than pleasant to drink and you will waste more time and effort on it than it is worth. It may end up putting you and others off home brewing.

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