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Prospect

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Hi all. First post here. I've been interested in home brewing for quite some time and finally took the plunge recently and bought the necessary equipment. Just the bare minimum to brew some 1 gallon batches and get my feet wet before really investing in the hobby.

Last weekend I brewed my first batch and ended up with a very low OG of 1.020. I don't think I crushed the grain well enough as I was only using a rolling pin. I continued with fermentation nonetheless and it seemed to start off very strong but the bubbling and airlock action quickly came to a halt after only two days. There is still the odd little bubble floating up but the beer is becoming almost clear already after 4 days.

I was planning to leave it two weeks but now I sort of want to bottle it this weekend so I can free up my fermenting jug and try again. Thoughts on that?

Everything I read says to check FG to be sure fermentation is complete but I don't understand how to do that without introducing oxygen / outside air to the fermenter. Isn't that bad? I am using a 1 gallon glass carboy. If I check it and am not at FG yet can I just stick the cork/air lock back on and let it continue to ferment?

Thanks in advance
 

D.B.Moody

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Welcome to the hobby and HBT.

Lesson #1 is patience. Stick with your plan and bottle after two weeks.
You can check the final gravity before you bottle if you want to, but it's really just to assure yourself that it's done. Do you really know what the final gravity should be? You are right about introducing oxygen by opening the fermenter, and that's a reason to be patient and wait so that you aren't doing this needlessly.
Lesson #2 is to not be overly concerned with oxygen exposure on your first batches. People, me for instance :), have brewed with little concern for oxygen for decades. Learn the craft on regular ales that don't require equipment you don't have. You can do lagers and NEIPAs later if you want to.
 
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Background: 1 gal batches in a 1 gal carboy

Welcome to HomeBrewTalk @Prospect .

With this reply, I want to address the "trees" portion of "forest vs trees". I may have more to say on the "forest" portion.

Last weekend I brewed my first batch and ended up with a very low OG of 1.020. I don't think I crushed the grain well enough as I was only using a rolling pin.
That's a reasonable OG for a rolling pin. A Corona-like grain mill is often the next (inexpenseive) step for crushing grains.

I continued with fermentation nonetheless and it seemed to start off very strong but the bubbling and airlock action quickly came to a halt after only two days. There is still the odd little bubble floating up but the beer is becoming almost clear already after 4 days.
Without knowing the specific yeast strain, that seems reasonable.

I was planning to leave it two weeks but now I sort of want to bottle it this weekend so I can free up my fermenting jug and try again. Thoughts on that?
I wouldn't bottle after seven days.

Everything I read says to check FG to be sure fermentation is complete but I don't understand how to do that without introducing oxygen / outside air to the fermenter. Isn't that bad?
I'll agree with @D.B.Moody : don't be overly concerned with oxygen exposure on your first batches.

Especially with 1 gal carboys where some anecdotal evidence suggests the bottles don't last long enough to show the effects of oxygen ingress.

If I check it and am not at FG yet can I just stick the cork/air lock back on and let it continue to ferment?
Yes.
 

Murph4231

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Welcome to the madness. Follow the suggestions above. That's good info. And don't be discouraged if this first batch doesn't turn out perfect. As long as your sanitation practices are good it will be drinkable. It will be thin due to low extracting but it will reward you with beer. Maybe a lite beer but beer non the less.
 

AlexKay

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Unsolicited advice:
  • Glass is dangerous; I've had a 1-gallon carboy come apart in my hands. There are some very good options for small plastic fermenters.
  • Cover the fermenter, whether glass or plastic, to limit exposure to UV light.
And welcome! You've got some good advice in the previous posts.
 

Murph4231

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Alex Kay gave more good advice. While I too ferment small test batches in 1 gal glass it always concerns me. Seek out options. Here is something I put together for fermenting meads and ciders containing fruit. You can adapt lots of kitchen items into your brewing process.

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hotbeer

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Big thing IMO to learn is never be in a hurry to get the beer out of the fermenter. Even after it's finished fermenting other things are going on that many times improve your beer.

You can get by for a time without something to check the SG. Just wait for at least 2 weeks or more and you'll likely be okay to bottle. I usually wait that long before I ever think about sampling to see about the FG. And before bottling I wait till the beer is clean enough for me to see across the top of the trub layer to the other side. That sometimes has been more than 5 weeks.

Sounds like you made a low alcohol brew. Even those can be quite good. Was this an all grain brew with malted grain or did you use grains that weren't malted?

If you are getting your malts from a local beer supply or online then they usually will grind them for you. And that will save wear and tear on your rolling pin.
 
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Prospect

Prospect

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Thanks all for the great advice. This is a big help. I will hold out on bottling for the two weeks.

For my next batch, how can I get higher OG out of the grain without spending on a grain mill quite yet? I can go harder with the rolling pin to crush it better. Will adding more grain to the recipe also help or would that be detrimental somehow?

Re. FG- hah, no, I guess I don't actually really know what FG to expect. Recipe says 1.006 but I had a different SG than the recipe.

Re. Oxygen- thanks for the reassurances. I will not get hung up on this.

Re. UV light- had already read that light was bad - so yes my fermenter is tucked away inside a cabinet in the basement - but what is the reason? What does light do?

Re. Glass carboys- are they really that fragile or just dangerous in certain circumstances? The one I am using looks to be pretty thick glass.

Sounds like you made a low alcohol brew. Even those can be quite good. Was this an all grain brew with malted grain or did you use grains that weren't malted?

If you are getting your malts from a local beer supply or online then they usually will grind them for you. And that will save wear and tear on your rolling pin.
This was all grain BIAB with malted grain. I will look into pre milled next time but for the mean time still have about 4 lbs of grain to use up.

Thanks again for the friendly advice everyone.
 

hotbeer

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I use an old burr type coffee grinder that I already had. It doesn't crush the grain quite like a proper mill will do for beer making. But it can powder it up quite fine. Does quite well in a BIAB mash. The corona mills someone mentioned are quite inexpensive.

The better the crush or milling you can get on the malts, the less malt that you'll likely need to achieve a particular OG. Though other ways you mash might give you better results too.

I use glass carboys for 1 gallon brews. I'd probably not use them for 5 gallon brews. So that's your own personal safety concern. However when glass breaks, it's so sharp you won't notice the cut until you see a pool of blood on everything you touch.

Never try to save anything glass from impending disaster and you'll only have broken glass and beer to clean up. Not your blood as well after coming home from the ER with stitches. There are other safety practices too for glass, but then this reply would be way too long.
 
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Re. Glass carboys- are they really that fragile or just dangerous in certain circumstances? The one I am using looks to be pretty thick glass.
I have some 5+ year old 1 gal carboys and 1.5-ish gal "Little Big Mouth Bubblers". Having seen some of the newer inventory for these items, it seems like the glass has gotten thinner.

There are many goods ways to 'poka-yoke' moving a carboy. Alas, those process descriptions are boring. Stories of broken carboys seem to be more interesting to tell (and maybe to read).
 
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@Prospect : a proper grain crush and holding proper mash temperature appear to be current (or upcoming) challenges with your 1 gallon batches.

If you find yourself wondering how to get better temperature control with 1 gal batches, the simplest thing may be to brew larger batches. In about the 2.0 to 2.5 gal batch size, the weight of the grains, combined with a wrapped / covered kettle will give you a stable mash temperature. (Later in this topic, someone may come along to talk about mashing in a pre-heated oven. Or check out the "1 gal brewers unite" topic in the 2019-2022 timeframe)

If you plan to brew 1 gal batches short term, do not spend any time thinking about how many bottles you get. A 1 gal carboy is useful for fermenting a six-pack. And one can spend a lot of time exploring ideas on how to get 8 or 9. If you spend time thinking about optimizing yield for a 1 gal carboy, take time to consider moving to a larger batch size. 2 gal plastic food grade buckets can be used to brew a 12-pack (plus an occasional bonus bottle).
 

Neldog0

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Short story, UV light causes bitter hop compounds to break off MBT, a chemical which has an insanely low flavor threshold and smells and tastes like skunk.
Hi everyone. I used to be a fan of glass carboys. I have three 5 gallon ones I got 30 years ago. The glass is so thick the each weigh at least 25 lbs each. I switched over to stainless steel fermenters because I was always worried about dropping the glass. I’ll never go back to the glass. The stainless steel fermenters seal the wort in complete darkness & are easier to handle especially if you add some of the options available.

Good brewing. Relax and have a homebrew.
 
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Prospect

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Hi All,

Just wanted to provide an update on this first batch now that two weeks have passed. I bottled the beer today and during that process took a specific gravity reading and also tasted it. FG was about 1.01. Having a starting gravity of 1.02 that means my beer came out to about 1.3%... and that's about what it tasted like - if you took coors light and mixed it half and half with water. I bottled it up nonetheless. Maybe it will taste OK once carbonated and chilled. Question - is my beer safe to store and drink at this low of an alcohol level?

I also started my second batch today. Increased the amount of grain in the recipe and did a much better job crushing it with the rolling pin. I also squeezed every last bit of liquid out of the muslin bag after sparging. SG came out to 1.034 this time. Very happy to see this improvement (though I do think a corona mill is not far off in my future).

Cheers.
 

AlexKay

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Most every place that will sell you malt will also crush it for you, for free or for cheap. There’s reason to get a mill: repeatability, optimizing for your process, and if-you-want-it-done-right. But there’s nothing wrong with precrushed grain, and (tip of the hat for what must have been a real pain) no good reason to use a rolling pin.
 

aceluby

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I started out with one gallon batches and have done probably close to 50 of them. Here is what I do and can do a full brew day in less than 3 hours:
  1. Get your grain crushed where you buy it. It will be far better than what you can do at home without a mill and be fine for a one gallon batch.
  2. To mash, heat up 1/4 gallon water per pound of grain to 160, stir in your grain, cover the pot, then stick it in a 170 degree oven for an hour. Stir a couple times during that process.
  3. Strain your grains over your boil pot, then slowly pour about a gallon and a half of 180 degree water over your grains and into your boil pot. This will sparge and mash out in one shot.
  4. Boil and add your hops according to the recipe.
  5. 15 min before the end of your boil, fill your sink with reusable ice packs and cold water.
  6. At the end of the boil, cover it and put the pot in your sink. Leave it for 30 minutes.
  7. Slowly pour the wort into your sanitized fermenter with a strainer to catch your hops. You may need to stop and rinse the strainer out if it gets full.
  8. Pitch 1/2 pack of yeast (dry or liquid)
  9. Shake the fermenter for 5 minutes.
  10. Set up a blow off tube for 2-3 days, then add your dry hops if needed, and switch to an air lock.
  11. Leave for 8-10 more days
  12. Sanitize 12 bottles and add 1/2 tsp of sugar to each one
  13. Fill a bottle from the fermenter with a bottle filler to the top and cap immediately
  14. Repeat for each bottle until there isn’t enough to fill a bottle (anywhere from 8-12 beers depending on the fermenter). Drink the last portion to see how it will taste.
  15. After the fermenter is clear, swish around the trub until everything is in suspended liquid, then transfer the trub to a sanitized Ball jar and throw it in your fridge. You can use that for a future batch (free yeast!). This step is optional, but incredibly easy, even for a beginner. I started harvesting yeast pretty much immediately
  16. Let the bottles carb up for 10-14 days, chill in the fridge, then enjoy!
 

jerrylotto

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Measure your OG after the boil when you're cool down to room temperature just before you're ready to pitch your yeast. It doesn't really matter what the pre-boil gravity is, the steam you drive off concentrates the wort.
 
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