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Charlie80s

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Hi all!
This is my first post about my first brewing experience.
I'm brewing Coopers Bitter in Australia.
I'm using an hydrometer. I recorded the OG last monday (16.03.09) when i made the wort and it was 1.033 (already something wrong with this since I read it should be at about 1.042?). I've measured it yesterday (after 4 days)(20.03.09) and today (21.03.09) and apparently it is stable,denoting the fermentation process is complete (I think?). The FG recorded is 1.014 on both days, but I read it should be about 1.006. What is wrong with my beer?Should I wait more time and see if it drops to around 1.006 or assume it is ready to be bottled since the gravity is stable?
I tested the hydrometer in tap water (appr. 20 degrees C i think) and the gravity was exactly 1000.
The averege temperature of the wort is 22. I put a blanket around the bin at night. The temperature might have dropped below 21 over the 4 days though.
The starting temperature was 28.
There is probably appr. a liter of water too many because i added some ice to try to bring the starting temperature down to 27ish (in vain).
Can anybody help please? :)
Thanks a lot!!
 

SumnerH

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Hi all!
This is my first post about my first brewing experience.
I'm brewing Coopers Bitter in Australia.
I'm using an hydrometer. I recorded the OG last monday (16.03.09) when i made the wort and it was 1.033 (already something wrong with this since I read it should be at about 1.042?). I've measured it yesterday (after 4 days)(20.03.09) and today (21.03.09) and apparently it is stable,denoting the fermentation process is complete (I think?). The FG recorded is 1.014 on both days, but I read it should be about 1.006. What is wrong with my beer?Should I wait more time and see if it drops to around 1.006 or assume it is ready to be bottled since the gravity is stable?
If you get the same reading 3 days in a row, it's probably done. Note: there's no reason to measure it in the middle day, just measure, wait 2 days, measure again. If it was much below 21C, you could try raising the temperature to that point to get it to finish, but a) patience is better than heat and b) it seems like you're already right around that temperature anyway.

Did you do the method of making the wort in a smaller amount of water than the total, and then topping it up with water when you put it in the fermentor? If so, that explains your OG reading being off--it's really hard to get a good mix that way, so it's usually more accurate to just calculate the OG in extracts than measure it. The fermenting will mix it up fine, so no worries on taste there.

I tested the hydrometer in tap water (appr. 20 degrees C i think) and the gravity was exactly 1000.
The averege temperature of the wort is 22. I put a blanket around the bin at night. The temperature might have dropped below 21 over the 4 days though.
The starting temperature was 28.
That's a little high. Usually I like to keep it at 18C or below during fermentation, but more importantly make sure it's below 18 (15-16 is better) when you pitch the yeast.

It depends on the style, though. With a big Belgian, I might pitch at 18 and keep the ambient around there but let the beer rise as high as it wants during ferm. With a less estery style, I'll pitch there and then try to keep the beer temp steady (so set the fermentor in a bigger, moderately shallow bucket of water while it ferments to let the water's evaporation counteract the heat of fermentation).

Tha's one of the things kit instructions don't tell you, to make things look as simple as possible: Yes, ales can be done at 21, but you'll get a cleaner, nicer-tasting product if you can keep it a few degrees cooler during fermentation. It's not going to ruin your beer if you did it higher, though.

There is probably appr. a liter of water too many because i added some ice to try to bring the starting temperature down to 27ish (in vain).
Umm, did you sanitize that water before freezing it to ice? Generally a bad idea, but it's unlikely to ruin things.

Basically: Relax, don't worry, let it sit 2 days, measure the gravity again, and if it's the same then your fermentation's done.
 

SumnerH

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PS: My girlfriend's Aussie (Perth), the Brown Recluse I have in Primary is an attempt at cloning Matilda Bay's Redback (which I've never had). Cheers!
 
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Charlie80s

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Thanks for the prompt reply!
I took it for granted and forgot to say that I'm brewing using a canned constituent for dummies like me :p
So what I did was (following the instructions in the Coopers homebrew kit booklet): sanitise the bin with the sanitiser from the same brand and all the equipment, rinse and let drain; soften the content of the can in warm water for 10min or so; pour the content of the can in the bin, add 1kg of brewing sugar, add 2 liters of boiling water and stir for 2-3 min; add 20 liters of cool water then stir again, top with the yeast, close the lid, secure the airlock and fill it in halfway with sterilised water, so I am not sure about what follows:
Did you do the method of making the wort in a smaller amount of water than the total, and then topping it up with water when you put it in the fermentor? If so, that explains your OG reading being off--it's really hard to get a good mix that way, so it's usually more accurate to just calculate the OG in extracts than measure it. The fermenting will mix it up fine, so no worries on taste there.
I didn't sanitise the water for the ice. I wasn't expecting the initial temperature to be so high, so I just chucked some ice in the wort because I was afraid the yeast could die otherwise. Then I added the yeast.

The kit's instructions suggest I wait 4-6 days before bottling, then check the FG over two days: if it's stable, I can bottle.
Also they suggest the temperature be in the range between 17-27C for the yeast to work effectively.
Do you still suggest I ignore these instructions and follow your suggestion to pitch and ferment at lower temperatures, considering we're talking about canned constituents, which probably wasn't clear in my previous post?

Also what do higher or lower gravity readings reflect? The FG is apparently stable, and hence the beer ready to be bottled, but higher than expected: what does this imply?
What factors affect a liquid's gravity? How do all these considerations affect the process and eventually the final result?

Thank you again! :)
 

Nurmey

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The instructions might say to wait 4-6 days but yeast can't read a calendar. The FG is high because the yeast isn't finished with its job. Please don't bottle 6 day old beer because we really don't want you to have bottle bombs. Personally I don't bottle before 4 weeks but if you're in a hurry wait at least two weeks before you bottle.
 
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Charlie80s

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Thanks.
I'll follow your suggestion to wait longer!
Is there any risk I will have waited too long?
Say, if in a week, two weeks or whatever the FG is still the same, can I assume it won't ever go below those values, hence bottle? Is there a time limit over which it will be 'too late'?
Cheers!
 
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Charlie80s

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PS: My girlfriend's Aussie (Perth), the Brown Recluse I have in Primary is an attempt at cloning Matilda Bay's Redback (which I've never had). Cheers!
Fair dinkum? ;)
I think I tried the Redback before.. there are two different types though.If I'm not wrong, they are both wheat beers, but one is cloudy and the other one is clear.
One of the very few wheat beers in Australia (unfortunately)!
 

SumnerH

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I'm afraid my response might be a little long, so let me preface it with a summary.

The 3 best things you can do to improve the quality of your beer are:
1) Practice good sanitation;
2) control the temperature of fermentation well;
3) Don't rush things--anything after you pitch yeast, you're better off letting it go twice as long than one day too short. If your kit says "leave it to ferment for a week", 2 weeks is better than 6 days (and probably better than one week).

Thanks for the prompt reply!
I took it for granted and forgot to say that I'm brewing using a canned constituent for dummies like me :p
Okay, you're doing extract brewing with a pre-hopped extract. That's a perfectly fine way to ease into brewing. I'd recommend after you're comfortable with it you consider buying 15g or so of hops pellets of an appropriate variety of hops (my brain is struggling hard to make sure I speak metric) to add briefly at the end of the boil and give your brews a fresher hops aroma. Later on you can move to buying un-hopped malt extract and using hop pellets with it.

But for now, you're doing a pre-hopped extract, and you can make decent beer that way.

So what I did was (following the instructions in the Coopers homebrew kit booklet): sanitise the bin with the sanitiser from the same brand and all the equipment, rinse and let drain; soften the content of the can in warm water for 10min or so; pour the content of the can in the bin, add 1kg of brewing sugar, add 2 liters of boiling water and stir for 2-3 min; add 20 liters of cool water then stir again, top with the yeast, close the lid, secure the airlock and fill it in halfway with sterilised water, so I am not sure about what follows:
This is a very short boil, which is fine--with fresh hops you'll need to boil longer (up to an hour) but with your method it works okay.

For the purposes of your question, though, the important thing is that you mixed the extract with 2 liters of water and mixed thoroughly. Then you added cool water.

That's likely to result in a final wort that isn't totally mixed up, with the dense stuff you boiled separating out from some of the water you added later. Over a couple of days, it'll mix fine (so no worries on the final beer result), but it can throw off your OG reading significantly. You probably got a sample with more water and less wort, which explains why your OG seemed low.

Does that make sense? Basically, a gravity reading requires very evenly mixed wort (or beer).

I didn't sanitise the water for the ice. I wasn't expecting the initial temperature to be so high, so I just chucked some ice in the wort because I was afraid the yeast could die otherwise. Then I added the yeast.
You're better off waiting a while for it to cool or finding a sanitary way to help it--the ice could have nasties in it. If you move to unhopped extract + hops, you'll wind up with the same problem only worse (9+ liters of 100C wort to cool--basically, you fill a sink with ice water, set the pot in it, and stir for 15-20 minutes to get it below 24C or so)

But 9 times out of 10 it won't make a difference, so don't panic--your beer is probably fine.

Still, good sanitation is important to save you a big letdown the other 10% of the time. Essentially, when the wort is boiling it'll sanitize itself. Once it's cooled down at all (doing math: it needs to be at 71C for 5 minutes or so to pasteurize, so below 71C it's "cool") then you should make sure that nothing that hasn't been sanitized (with StarSan, iodophor, or the like) touches it.

The kit's instructions suggest I wait 4-6 days before bottling, then check the FG over two days: if it's stable, I can bottle.
You can. Stable over 3 days is better, since sometimes things slow down enough that it's not obvious over 2 days but it's still going a bit.

I'd recommend waiting 2 weeks; once it's done fermenting, the yeast will still do it some good cleaning up off flavors. It's always hard to wait, but almost every beer gets better with more time conditioning.

Also they suggest the temperature be in the range between 17-27C for the yeast to work effectively.
Do you still suggest I ignore these instructions and follow your suggestion to pitch and ferment at lower temperatures, considering we're talking about canned constituents, which probably wasn't clear in my previous post?
Most kits' instructions are sort of "here's the easiest way to make beer", not "here's the way to make great tasting beer".

At 27C the yeast will work, but it's warm enough that it'll be a lot more likely to produce esters (fruity flavors, especially banana-y) and fusil alcohols (beer that tastes like cheap moonshine/hot alcohol).

If you can get the temperature down to 18C or lower, you'll be more likely to make a better-tasting beer.

BUT, it'll take longer to finish. Anything 15-18 is ideal taste-wise but you're probably looking at 2 weeks to finish up (although, as always, the hydrometer is the ultimate guide to when it's done).

Cooper's (and any other simple kit manufacturer) wants things to look quick and easy for people, so their recommendations are for the faster way of getting it done.

Also what do higher or lower gravity readings reflect? The FG is apparently stable, and hence the beer ready to be bottled, but higher than expected: what does this imply?
The yeast was a little less viable (old or exposed to heat or whatever), or the extract wasn't totally fresh, or the temperatures weren't ideal, or whatever.

With the higher finishing gravity, your beer is likely to be slightly sweeter than the goal, and have slightly less alcohol.

1.014 is an okay finishing target, though; it's not likely to be incredibly sweet.


Incidentally, I can recomment John Palmer's book "How to Brew" very highly--especially because you can read it online for free at How to Brew - By John Palmer - Introduction The very last chapter has a section "Is my beer ruined" at How to Brew - By John Palmer - Common Off-Flavors and How to Brew - By John Palmer - Common Problems that is quite useful for troubleshooting problems. (if you like the book well enough, you could buy a copy to support the author and get the new version).

It's more focused on making great beer (rather than fast and easy beer) than the instructions in most kits are.
 

Nurmey

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You can leave it on the yeast for 4 weeks without issues. Many of us do that with every batch to allow the yeast to clean up off flavors and clear the beer. If after two weeks your gravity hasn't changed, you are probably ok to bottle. It get easier to wait after you have a few batches in the pipeline.
 

SumnerH

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Fair dinkum? ;)
I think I tried the Redback before.. there are two different types though.If I'm not wrong, they are both wheat beers, but one is cloudy and the other one is clear.
One of the very few wheat beers in Australia (unfortunately)!
Yeah, there are two. The one I'm working on is the Redback Original, not the newer Redback Mild.

Should you decide to try a beer with unhopped extract, here's what I have for a recipe so far (I've been working with the friendly folks over at AussieHomeBrewer.com as well as here and at NORTHERN BREWER on this recipe!):

.6 kg of Pilsen (or light if unavailable) dried malt extract
2 kg of wheat dried malt extract
20 g of Pride of Ringwood hops (a major Aussie hop of choice!)
10 g of Saaz hops

Bring 11 l of water to a boil. Turn off the heat, stir in the Pilsen and .4 kg of the wheat extract thoroughly. Return to boil. Add the Pride of Ringwood hops. Boil 45 minutes. Cut the heat, stir in the rest of the wheat extract thoroughly. Bring back to boil. Add the Saaz hops. Boil for 15 minutes.

Now chill down to 19C. Transfer to your fermentor, top up to a total of 19l with sanitized water (I find buying a couple big jugs of bottled water is easier than boiling up some water the night before, but I'm lazy), and add Wyeast W3638 Bavarian Weizen yeast (or another hefeweizen yeast).

Wait 10 days then start checking the gravity. Bottle when you get the same gravity reading 3 days in a row.

This will be cloudier than Redback--figuring out how to make it look clear is a little more advanced but not that hard (feel free to ask).
 
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Charlie80s

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Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions with very detailed, comprehensive and thorough hints and tips!
Also, I will definitely have a look at your suggested reading!
Sorry to make you reason in metric terms ;)
Cheers! :)
 
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Charlie80s

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I'd just like to ask 2 more questions:
- what is the best way to control the temperature so that it is 1) stable 2) not over or below the recommended temperature? i know there's a range of heating belts available on the market but are they recommendable? are there any better devices? and what about if i need to cool down the wort??
- by following the instructions in the booklet about the preparation of the wort (pouring 2 litres of boiling water to melt hopped malt extract and sugar, then adding 20 or so litres of cool water), the initial temperature would always be too high to pitch the yeast (27-28 while you suggest i pitch it at 18 or so). But they also recommend I pitch the yeast as soon as possible because otherwise the wort could spoil!.. So, what would you suggest in this regard? Any different method of preparing the wort? Just add very cold water? Ignore instructions and just wait for the wort to cool down before pitching the yeast? What is best?
Thank you again! :)
 

caesius

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I'd just like to ask 2 more questions:
- what is the best way to control the temperature so that it is 1) stable 2) not over or below the recommended temperature?
I use a system where the fermenter sits inside a halved plastic barrel 3/4 immersed in water. There is an aquarium heater, pump (to ensure even heating) and a temperature probe all in the water. Keeps the water outside the fermeneter (and hopefully therefore, the stuff inside the fermenter) at around 14-18 degrees celcius.
 
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Charlie80s

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Thanks for that. But what about I need a lower temperature? :)
 

homebrewjapan

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Interesting to read this post and its replies. My first beer settled down to 1006 in 6 days. However my second kit (made with malt instead of sugar) almost exploded on day 1 (Something wrong? « Homebrew Japan) and is now around 1020 on day 5 with almost no activity. It should be around 1012 when malt is added instead of sugar.

I'm following the advice of staying calm and "leaving it" for the moment. I'll give it another few days and if it is still around 1020 then i'll panic.
 

caesius

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Thanks for that. But what about I need a lower temperature? :)
Then you can throw some ice into the water? Seriously though I don't know. Where I live in NZ it is cold enough that the water stays around 12-14 degrees and I'm having to heat it rather than cool it...
 

Yooper

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Thanks for that. But what about I need a lower temperature? :)
I do the same thing described, using a cooler. I removed the lid from the cooler, and made a new lid out of styrofoam sheeting, so only the airlock pokes through. It's one of those "5 day" coolers, where ice is supposed to stay frozen in 90 degree heat for five days. I doubt it really works that well, but it works well enough for my purposes! I put water in the cooler, the carboy in that and drop frozen water bottles in it as needed to keep the temp in the low 60s (17-18C). There are pictures in my gallery, but you have to wade through all the other pictures first. I'll try to dig up the picture and post it.

Edit- here's the photo!
 
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Charlie80s

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Update: I finally bottled my beer after a total of 2 weeks or so, the final gravity being stable at 1.013. Now the point is, according to the following formula: ((OG-FG)/7.46)+0.5, the projected ABV is 3.1%!!! ((1033-1013)/7.46)+0.5=3.1
Does this make any sense or does it mean there is something wrong with my brew?
According to the little booklet that comes with the can it should have been around 5.3% - ((1042-1006)/7.46)+0.5=5.3% :(
thanks
 
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