Common Worries

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These are some of the biggest concerns of new Brewers


Did I kill my yeast?

Yeast can survive in temperatures up to about 100ºF (38ºC). Anything higher will kill them. Ale yeast will go dormant if it gets into the lower 50s (11-12ºC), while lager yeast can go al the way into the upper 30s (2-3ºC) before going dormant. As long as you pitch the yeast into the wort after it has cooled to room temperature, you're fine.

My beer has been sitting in the fermenter for 2 days and there are no bubbles!

  • If you're using a plastic bucket, make sure the seal on the top is tight. Gas can escape out of the tiniest spaces, so a loose fit will prevent the airlock from bubbling.
  • If you've got a glass carboy, or other clear container, and you see a krausen forming, you're fine as well.
  • Sometimes fermentation goes by quickly, and it is possible to miss the entire thing.
  • Check the gravity to see if it has fermented.
  • If it is none of these things, wait 3-4 days total before pitching addition yeast.

How much sugar can I put in my beer?

Most brewers recommend limiting the use of dextrose to the priming stage of the procedure, as it tends to produce cidery flavors when used in large quantities that are generally undesirable. Some online shops sell dextrose as a 1% alcohol booster kit. No more than perhaps a single pound should be used.

Can I boil my grains?

  • You do NOT want to boil grains, as such high temperatures will extract unpleasant-tasting tannins from the grain, which lend an astringent, puckering quality to the beer, a definite off-flavor that should be avoided.
  • Steep the grains in a muslin bag or piece of cheesecloth at 150-170ºF (66-77ºC) for half an hour, then remove them, giving the bag a gentle squeezing to remove some of the absorbed water. Again, too vigorous a squeezing will put tannins into the beer.

Do I have to wait?

Patience is one of the hardest things to learn as a brewer, but the sooner it is learned, the better. You should not plan on really drinking a beer until a month after you initially brew it, at the very earliest. Usually, you'll have to wait at least six weeks for the beer to start tasting pretty good, and the longer you let the beer age, the better it gets. So the short answer is, YES!

Can I bottle yet?

You want to make sure the beer has stopped fermenting, as an incomplete fermentation and early bottling can lead to the dread bottle bombs, which are absolutely no fun at all. Make sure you see basically no activity in the fermenter, then check the gravity to see if you've reached your target. Some advise checking the gravity three days in a row to make sure it hasn't changed, but that has been debated.

Do I need an hydrometer?

  • Some say if you take your time and let fermentations finish completely, by waiting as long as possible, hydrometers are unnecessary.
  • Others want to know the alcohol content of their beers precisely, or prefer to be certain that fermentation has ceased before bottling or kegging, and swear by the hydrometer.

I have bits floating on my beer

Good! Odds are, it's either proteins from the cold break, or pieces of hops, or globs of yeast working hard to make beer for you. However, sometimes you have a real problem, such as infection or other contaimination.

  • List of potential infections needed