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Questions about fermentation?

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misterthews

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Hi Guys,

Been reading the forums for a while now, and recently decided to get my feet wet. I brewed my first batch on monday. I have a couple of questions though. First, I did not take any readings with my hydrometer like I probably should have, but the instructions that I received never mentioned anything about measuring or checking so I didn't. As far as fermenting goes, is there such thing as too much fermenting? Also, how do I know when the fermentation process is complete? I was thinking about doing a second fermentation as well, when is the correct time to do this?

Thanks
 

Golddiggie

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You're planning on adding more sugars to the brew, after it's completed fermenting? If not, then you're not actually doing a second fermentation. Most likely, you're talking about racking to another vessel, which is an old method. Many of us have stopped doing this for the vast majority of what we brew. For almost all of what I brew, which uses ale yeast, I simply leave the batch in primary/fermenter for 4-8 weeks, then move it to the kegs, seal, purge, and then chill and carbonate.

There are those that claim you need to do this to get a batch to clear properly. I've found it completely unnecessary. I pretty much always get a nice, compact yeast cake in the bottom of my fermenter. I'm using Wyeast strains from the British Isles, which I believe is a major factor there. Plus, I tend to use strains that are either highly or very highly flocculating.

Without an OG reading, you don't KNOW what you actually started at. If it's an extract kit, you should be within a few points of what the recipe calls out, provided the batch volume (in fermenter) was correct. You can check the SG after a couple of weeks, then taste the sample. Wait a few more days and do it again. IF the gravity reading is identical on both days, and it TASTES ready (no off flavors) then you can bottle it up.

Next time, and moving forward, take an OG reading so you know where you're starting. While this isn't critical with extract batches (still a good habit to form) it is very important once you go either partial mash or all grain. Many of us have switched to using a refractometer for the OG reading, then use the hydrometer for the FG reading. With the refractometer, you need a miniscule sample (a drop or two) to get the reading. You can also pull from the mash to see what you have there. A great thing when you're mashing the grain.

As for your batch, without knowing what you brewed, I'd let it go 2-4 weeks before taking a reading. Depending on how it tastes, you could let it go even longer. There are plenty of us that have left brews on the yeast for several weeks. Some have even left it there for months, with zero issues.

Also, 99% of the time, you can ignore the instructions where it lists how long to ferment, and then bottle. Unless you match the conditions perfectly, and pitch the correct amount of yeasts, the time frames listed are just a loose guide (at best). Once you've brewed enough batches, with the same yeasts, you'll get a better handle of how long they take to ferment certain OG range brews.
 

A4J

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Did you do an extract brew or one of those pre-hopped kits? Either way it doesn't really matter that you didn't take an initial hydrometer reading. There is no such thing as too much fermenting*. To truly know that fermentation is complete, you'll need to take hydrometer reading and if they're the same for three days in a row, it's done fermenting. What most of us do here is to just leave it in the fermenter for 3-4 weeks. It'll definitely be done fermenting by then but the longer time gives the yeast a chance to clean up after themselves.

*technically, yes, there can be such a thing as too much fermenting or too much attenuation, but that's more of a worry with all grain.
 
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misterthews

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Thanks for the replies, makes lots of sense and I can only get better from here on out. I hope.

Sorry I forgot to mention what I was actually brewing, the extract kit that I pick up was an amber ale from stein fillers in long beach.

Yes I suppose I was talking about racking, still don't know all the correct terminology yet. So I pretty much do not have to do this step?!? Good to know.

Couple more questions, when do I take the OG reading? Im assuming its right before fermenting. Before or after I add the yeast? Also when is it the appropriate time to take the SG and FG readings. Again im assuming but I would guess the SG reading is during fermentation and FG reading is right before bottling?
 

brtisbuck

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Thanks for the replies, makes lots of sense and I can only get better from here on out. I hope.

Sorry I forgot to mention what I was actually brewing, the extract kit that I pick up was an amber ale from stein fillers in long beach.

Yes I suppose I was talking about racking, still don't know all the correct terminology yet. So I pretty much do not have to do this step?!? Good to know.

Couple more questions, when do I take the OG reading? Im assuming its right before fermenting. Before or after I add the yeast? Also when is it the appropriate time to take the SG and FG readings. Again im assuming but I would guess the SG reading is during fermentation and FG reading is right before bottling?
Take your OG reading just prior to pitching. If you add top off water, be sure to mix well or it could throw off your reading. There may also be a correction depending on the temp of the wort you measure. Its hard to do nothing, but I would let it go 2-3 weeks before even taking any reading after that. The less you mess with it, the less chance for contamination. If you want clear beer, you will leave it in the primary for probably 3 weeks anyways. Remember, airlock activity doesn't really tell you how fermentation is going, only that your fermenter is relieving co2.
 

unionrdr

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When you're taking OG or FG readings,you are taking what is called a Specific Gravity reading. SG is just the generic term for the process of testing a wort sample. OG= Original Gravity,FG= Final Gravity.
I take my OG sample then pitch the yeast & seal'er up. I wait till the 2 week mark for the first FG test. That gives me an idea of how close to FG it is.
 

JeffoC6

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Hey guys, I'm only a day into my fermentation process, but had a few questions about it. On day 3 (per the instructions given to be by Brooklyn Brew Shop) I'm supposed to remove the blow-off tube and attach the airlock. Then, I'm supposed to wait 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, I'm to begin my bottling process. Please note that I used an all grain blend given to me by the Brooklyn Brew Shop. I did not use a hydrometer or anything, as I don't even have one at this point (very very very new).

Question 1- Is 2 weeks too short? Should I wait longer? Will it be better the longer I wait?

Question 2- I've read on here that some people say to "taste it" after a few weeks. If we're not supposed to let oxygen into the carboy, how is this done? Wouldn't I have to undo the airlock and syphon out some of the beer, thus, exposing oxygen to it?

I just purchased an autosyphon from the Brooklyn Brew Shop since it appears that it's an invaluable tool.

Anyway, thanks in advance...
 

Yooper

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Hey guys, I'm only a day into my fermentation process, but had a few questions about it. On day 3 (per the instructions given to be by Brooklyn Brew Shop) I'm supposed to remove the blow-off tube and attach the airlock. Then, I'm supposed to wait 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, I'm to begin my bottling process. Please note that I used an all grain blend given to me by the Brooklyn Brew Shop. I did not use a hydrometer or anything, as I don't even have one at this point (very very very new).

Question 1- Is 2 weeks too short? Should I wait longer? Will it be better the longer I wait?

Question 2- I've read on here that some people say to "taste it" after a few weeks. If we're not supposed to let oxygen into the carboy, how is this done? Wouldn't I have to undo the airlock and syphon out some of the beer, thus, exposing oxygen to it?

I just purchased an autosyphon from the Brooklyn Brew Shop since it appears that it's an invaluable tool.

Anyway, thanks in advance...
Two weeks is about right! You'll wait until fermentation stops, and the beer will start to look clearer. Once it's fairly clear, it can be bottled. A hydrometer is a great tool, as the easiest way to know if it's actually done is to take readings at least a couple of days apart, and if they are the same (unchanging over that period), then the beer is done.

When you take the reading, you can use a turkey baster or whatever you have on hand (sanitized, of course!) to gently pull out a sample of the beer and stick the airlock back on.
 

JeffoC6

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Two weeks is about right! You'll wait until fermentation stops, and the beer will start to look clearer. Once it's fairly clear, it can be bottled. A hydrometer is a great tool, as the easiest way to know if it's actually done is to take readings at least a couple of days apart, and if they are the same (unchanging over that period), then the beer is done.

When you take the reading, you can use a turkey baster or whatever you have on hand (sanitized, of course!) to gently pull out a sample of the beer and stick the airlock back on.
Great tip, thanks!
 

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