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Another beginner here...using MrBeer

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ESPY

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Hi everyone, another new guy here. I've started out with the MrBeer kit just to get my feet wet. I like the fact that it does 2 gal. batches instead of 5.

Anyway, I started my first batch (Nut Brown Ale) on Sunday and I'm afraid my house may be too cool to get the fermentation started quickly. My wife and I have an agreement: I control the remote and she controls the thermostat. So, our house is generally at 60-65 °F. As of last night (~52 hrs), I still didn't see much in the way of any active fermentation and it appears as if most of the yeast has settled to the bottom already. I wouldn't be worried if not for the fact that the MrBeer instructions say that their quick acting yeast will generally start fermentation in ~24 hours at a temp of 65-75 °F.

So last night I put the keg on top of a heating pad with a couple of towels in between. I checked the temp of the keg bottom and it seems to have settled at about 72-74 degrees. Hopefully that will help. But should I be concerned with all of the yeast that's already at the bottom? Is it a bad idea to slosh it around a little to try to stir that up?

Thanks,
SP
 

richanne

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No, it is not a bad idea to slosh things around. Now that you've got it at the right temperature, that may help your yeast get started.
 

Janx

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"Sloshing" will in no way help the yeast get started. Almost certainly, your yeast has started just fine on its own, and has yet to bubble.

Aerating the wort *before* adding the yeast is important, but the illusion that sloshing jump-starts a fermentation is just that, an illusion.

When fermentation starts, the yeast begins producing CO2, which begins to saturate the solution. That takes some time. Once the solution is saturated, bubbles begin to form and rise, which is your first visual indicator that fermentation has begun.

So sloshing may make it bubble (because you're releasing bubbles from solution, like shaking a soda), but then you'll just have to wait for the bubbles to start again once the solution is saturated. In other words, it may make you feel better, but it doesn't do a darn thing and certainly doesn't "help your yeast get started", unless your wort was severely under-aerated in the first place (rare).

The key ingrediaent here is patience, or if you really want a quicker start (and better beer) pitch a larger yeast starter.

Janx
 
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ESPY

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Janx said:
"Sloshing" will in no way help the yeast get started. Almost certainly, your yeast has started just fine on its own, and has yet to bubble.

Aerating the wort *before* adding the yeast is important, but the illusion that sloshing jump-starts a fermentation is just that, an illusion.

When fermentation starts, the yeast begins producing CO2, which begins to saturate the solution. That takes some time. Once the solution is saturated, bubbles begin to form and rise, which is your first visual indicator that fermentation has begun.

So sloshing may make it bubble (because you're releasing bubbles from solution, like shaking a soda), but then you'll just have to wait for the bubbles to start again once the solution is saturated. In other words, it may make you feel better, but it doesn't do a darn thing and certainly doesn't "help your yeast get started", unless your wort was severely under-aerated in the first place (rare).

The key ingrediaent here is patience, or if you really want a quicker start (and better beer) pitch a larger yeast starter.

Janx
So is it normal for most of the yeast to have settled to the bottom even before heavy fermentation has started? I was under the impression that the yeast would only settle out as fermentation progressed. My only reason for sloshing would be to get the yeast off of the bottom and expose more of it to the wort.

SP
 

Janx

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A lot of the stuff on the bottom is probably not yeast. When I make a starter with DME, a lot of stuff instantly settles to the bottom. Before even adding yeast. There are solids in wort that don't dissolve.

Unless something was done really wrong, I can pretty much guarantee you have little yeastie-beasties running around in there exposing themselves to all the wort they need (remember, you can't see them). Slow starts seem to be common with the Mr Beer kit. My guess is that the quantity of yeast they give is inadequate, but I'm not familiar with the kit.

As long as you aerated the wort before adding yeast and didn't add yeast to *really* hot wort, it's almost certainly doing its thing. The real danger from slow starts is the increased risk of infection. Brewing is like a race against all the bad nasties that want to live and work in your wort. So the bigger the yeast pitch, the quicker the start, and the greater advantage the desirable yeast have.

Making a big enough yeast starter and getting a quick start to fermentation is one of the best things you can do to ensure quality beer. In your case, the cooler temps probably slowed things a little too, but are no big deal probably.

But if it makes you feel better, slosh it around a bit...that stuff will settle right back down, but there's nothing like seeing it to prove it to yourself, and you can't hurt anything :D

Janx
 

richanne

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Sloshing questions aside, what does the Beer look like at the top? (Mr. Beer is transparent.) When the beer is fermenting, you should see something that looks sort of like foam on the top. This is more important than what you're seeing at the bottom. Janx, Mr. beer kits come with a packet of dry yeast that is generally more than adequate for a 2.5-gallon batch. You just need to stir up the wort before and after adding the yeast. I'm assuming he didn't make a starter, since Mr. Beer doesn't call for doing that.
 

Janx

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They tell you to stir it?

FWIW, I'd shake the heck out of it before adding yeast to aerate (assuming it's some sort of closed barrel). I'd also hydrate the dried yeast before adding it. Mix it into some boiled and cooled water to dissolve it, then pour the slurry into the wort in the Mr Beer. Or just dump in dried yeast and again shake the heck out of the Mr Beer.

I would never recommend stirring after adding the yeast. That's a very delicate time for wort (cooled but not fermenting), and the risk of infection is high. Those yeasties can get going without stirring.

richanne is right. There' shouldn't be any need to make a starter for 2.5 gallons when using dry yeast. The cell count in those packages is really high. I bet it'll get going pretty soon.

Janx
 

richanne

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Yes, they tell you to stir it. They also come with a one-step oxygen sanitizer and advise sanitizing everything that touches the wort.
 

Dark_Ale

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ESPY said:
Hi everyone, another new guy here. I've started out with the MrBeer kit just to get my feet wet. I like the fact that it does 2 gal. batches instead of 5.

Anyway, I started my first batch (Nut Brown Ale) on Sunday and I'm afraid my house may be too cool to get the fermentation started quickly. My wife and I have an agreement: I control the remote and she controls the thermostat. So, our house is generally at 60-65 °F. As of last night (~52 hrs), I still didn't see much in the way of any active fermentation and it appears as if most of the yeast has settled to the bottom already. I wouldn't be worried if not for the fact that the MrBeer instructions say that their quick acting yeast will generally start fermentation in ~24 hours at a temp of 65-75 °F.

So last night I put the keg on top of a heating pad with a couple of towels in between. I checked the temp of the keg bottom and it seems to have settled at about 72-74 degrees. Hopefully that will help. But should I be concerned with all of the yeast that's already at the bottom? Is it a bad idea to slosh it around a little to try to stir that up?

Thanks,
SP
If you have room where your hot water heater is thats a good place to brew ale.
 

uglygoat

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ahhhh leave the hot water tank alone mate!!!!

it needs space to be vented and not catch things on fire!

:)

even the meager dry yeast packets ferment like mad for me... it's a matter of being nice to the yeast. if it's dry vacuum sealed, imo, drop it in some luke warm water and let it sit for a bit. it will do it's thing nicely when you drop it into the water/wort mixture, but it has to be the same temp, ie all luke warm. then you'll get good action.
 

Dark_Ale

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t1master said:
ahhhh leave the hot water tank alone mate!!!!

it needs space to be vented and not catch things on fire!

:)

even the meager dry yeast packets ferment like mad for me... it's a matter of being nice to the yeast. if it's dry vacuum sealed, imo, drop it in some luke warm water and let it sit for a bit. it will do it's thing nicely when you drop it into the water/wort mixture, but it has to be the same temp, ie all luke warm. then you'll get good action.
Ya definity dont want to burn the house down.
 
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ESPY

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richanne said:
Sloshing questions aside, what does the Beer look like at the top? (Mr. Beer is transparent.) When the beer is fermenting, you should see something that looks sort of like foam on the top. This is more important than what you're seeing at the bottom. Janx, Mr. beer kits come with a packet of dry yeast that is generally more than adequate for a 2.5-gallon batch. You just need to stir up the wort before and after adding the yeast. I'm assuming he didn't make a starter, since Mr. Beer doesn't call for doing that.
It looks like either time or the increased temp has finally kicked things into action. Prior to yesterday there was no foam or anything on top. But last night when I got home and checked, there was about 1/8" of foam and this morning it was close to 1/2". So it's finally doing its thing. It took about 72 hrs for it to start. Next time I'll keep it warmer from the beginning and see how that works.

I've read in The Complete Joy of Homebrewing that it's a good idea to boil the wort for 45 minutes even if the directions don't call for it. The MrBeer directions say to bring the sugar water to a boil and remove from heat then add the extract. Do other MrBeer users out there boil their wort for a while?

Thanks,
SP
 

Janx

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It doesn't recommend boiling?? And sugar water?? Do these things make decent beer, because I find it hard to imagine...

I would recommend *always* boiling the wort. Otherwise, how is it sanitized? Also, replace any corn/cane sugar in the recipe with malt extract in the appropriate amounts.

Jeez, the more I hear about these Mr Beer things, the more crappy they sound. Getting started small is one thing, but if it makes crappy beer it'll just discourage people.

Janx
 

Dark_Ale

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Janx said:
It doesn't recommend boiling?? And sugar water?? Do these things make decent beer, because I find it hard to imagine...

I would recommend *always* boiling the wort. Otherwise, how is it sanitized? Also, replace any corn/cane sugar in the recipe with malt extract in the appropriate amounts.

Jeez, the more I hear about these Mr Beer things, the more crappy they sound. Getting started small is one thing, but if it makes crappy beer it'll just discourage people.

Janx
Yes........Mr. Beer Definitly sux, and gets people in the wrong direction, and I think you can buy them at Walmart of all places. The first kit I uses was similar to this, everytime I opened a bottle, nothing but foam came out...LOL, Luckly I jumped in with both feet and starting making ales, now I have a passion for making beer, If your gonna be a bear, might as well be a grizzly, So get the grain, get the malt......Anyone can follow a recipe right.....
 
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ESPY

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Janx said:
It doesn't recommend boiling?? And sugar water?? Do these things make decent beer, because I find it hard to imagine...

I would recommend *always* boiling the wort. Otherwise, how is it sanitized? Also, replace any corn/cane sugar in the recipe with malt extract in the appropriate amounts.

Jeez, the more I hear about these Mr Beer things, the more crappy they sound. Getting started small is one thing, but if it makes crappy beer it'll just discourage people.

Janx
The standard recipe kit is a mix of the malt extract and what they call "Booster" which is just corn sugar. They direct you to dissolve the booster in cold water, bring it to a boil, remove it from the heat, add the malt extract and stir. Then add to the fermenter to which you've already added 4 qts. of water. Fill with water to 2.5 gal, stir, then pitch the yeast and stir again. They also have all-malt kits which don't use the booster. As far as the quality of the beer? Can't comment on that yet. It may not be as good as all-malt or two-stage fermented, but I have yet to hear anybody really complain about it.

SP
 

Janx

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With corn sugar, it will simply never be as good.

And with the procedure you just described, I would make some sort of swampy, infected mess, but not beer. I guess if you have chlorinated tap water, you'd be safe, but my water comes out of a spring up the hill from my house. So...it's not sterile ;)

Brewing extract beers without something like a Mr Beer is straightforward enough. I'd recommend folks go that route. You'll have more control over the finished product and it'll be a lot better without corn sugar.

And as I've said before, all that unneeded stirring just invites infection. Don't stir your wort.

Janx
 

richanne

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Booster is not only corn sugar. It's a mixture of corn sugar and malto-dextrin. The Mr. Beer basic kit comes with a can of hopped extract to make West Coast Pale Ale and a package of the booster. Yes, the basic recipe calls for mixing the Booster with water, bringing it to a boil, removing from heat and then dissolving in the can of mix. The Booster does make for a kind of cidery beer, but it is beer nonetheless. It's the same thing as buying a can of Cooper's beer mix, only smaller. Cooper's and Munton and John Bull and all those canned extract mixes call for using sugar and follow this same basic procedure for brewing. They are the same thing, only for five gallons. In fact, I think the same place in Australia that produces the Cooper's canned mixes produces the Mr. Beer canned mixes. Either that or Mr. Beer comes out of New Zealand.

Mr. Beer also sells "all malt combos" that replace the Booster with a can of unhopped malt extract -- pale, amber or dark depending on the mix.
 

smorris

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When I was using a Mr. Beer I replaced the booster with DME and it worked rather well. Had a much better taste also without the cider undertones.
 

richanne

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Yes, DME would be better than Booster. By the by, Mr. Beer is now selling WYeast slap packs for $5.99!!
 

rightwingnut

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Janx said:
With corn sugar, it will simply never be as good.

And with the procedure you just described, I would make some sort of swampy, infected mess, but not beer.

Janx

Mmmmmm....swampy infected mess!! :D
 
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ESPY

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smorris said:
When I was using a Mr. Beer I replaced the booster with DME and it worked rather well. Had a much better taste also without the cider undertones.
As a good starting point to try this, would you recommend I just use the same amount DME as I would Booster? I think those Booster packs are 2-cups.

SP
 

ChrisKoivu

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Leave the barrel alone, the yeast will work in cold temperatures as well, from 58 - 72 degrees. The stuff at the bottom is probably the pouch of booster you added, which is the corn sugar and maltose mix. Just wait at least a week and things will happen, if it takes longer so be it. Just don't let the beer sit in the barrel after fermentation is done.
 
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