The Puny Russian Imperial Stout

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Ninjaneer

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My first ever batch of homebrew is currently sitting in glass bottles in my closet. The RIS for some reason has gotten a bit of a fruity taste to it and has some hints of lightly burnt coffee. The worst part, however, is that the bottles failed to build any carbonation whatsoever. Here are some newb mistakes that I made, I'm wondering if anyone knows what effects they may have had on this recipe... also any tips for getting these suckas to carbonate would be great...

1) we didn't have a gravity reader or a thermometer... b/c my brewcouncil is a bunch of poor engineering undergrads... stuff was done by guesswork.

2) we boiled the grains in the water the entire 1.5h of brewing (seems like a really big woops... heh...)

3) I believe we pitched the yeast in to wort that was /waaaay/ too hot. The mild Lambic-offness may be the result of our original yeast not being the yeast doing the fermenting... :) But we did get a HUGE blowoff within 17h... so something was in there.

4) ... additionally we didn't aerate our wort... so probably our weak yeast all but died... the only reason it didn't get infected with some grody air is that as engineers we were extremely careful about sanitation. (read: UV-lamp cabinet)

5) stuff came up... it sat in the primary for about 10 days... which may or may not be bad? who knows.

So mostly tips for re-carbing a bottled flat stouty. It's a weirdo of a brew, but I'd happily drink it if it only had a bit more carbonation. It's been 5 or 6 weeks in bottles now... Advise?
 

oberon567

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I am relatively green, so take my advice with a grain of salt. Someone more experienced can step in and fix anything I am wrong about:

1) Not the end of the world.
2) Again, didn't ruin the beer. Resulted in the extraction of more tannins from the husks of the grains, so a darker color (which is impossible with a RIS) and some off flavors of bitterness and harshness. And RIS is not a "delicate" beer, so while this would be noticeable it probably wouldnt "ruin" the brew.
3.) Obviously you didn't kill off all of your yeast, because it fermeneted. So thats good. When yeast ferments too hot you get more fusel alcohols, resulting in a more alcohol-y, hotter, harsher beer. Depending on the strain of yeast it can also leave behind diacetyl and Acetaldehyde, which creates off flavors (and the latter can, I believe, increase the chance for a hangover). The yeast should survive up to about 85 degrees. You obviously didnt kill it, though you may have shocked it. But it reduplicated and ate and pooped and sounds like it did its job, just left you with some funny flavors. Also, it is somewhat standard for an RIS to have a huge Krausen/blow-off. That's actually a good sign on your part.
4) Again, the yeast sounds like it did its job. Do you have a hydrometer now? Could you take a reading from one of the bottles and let us know the FG? That will tell you if all of the sugars have fermented or not. (Is it ridiculously sweet and non-alcoholic?) There is a lot of oxygen absorbed in the wort anyway, and more gets added in the process of transferring to your fermenting bucket. Aerating helps provide a healthier environment for the yeast, because, as I am slowly learning, the yeast and fermentation are what really have the greatest impact on the beer and are of significant importance. So lots of folks do everything they can to create a yeast paradise. But, again, it sounds like some yeast survived and did their job.
5.) Not quite sure what you mean... But most likely you didnt get all of the gunk out when you racked from boiling vessel to fermenting vessel. Also, when the wort has a hot break and then a cold break protein flocculate and fall out of the beer. Usually haze around a bit and then settle. Along with leftover hop pieces, dead yeasties, etc.

Where to go with it from here?
1) An RIS can last a while, and changes tastes with age. Between the date of boil to when you open your first bottle could easily be 3 - 3.5 months or so, so if you're drinking earlier, maybe it is a touch green.
2)As for the carbonation - you can always open all of your bottles, add carbonation pellets like these : http://www.homebrewit.com/aisle/p/1984 , or of course just a little sugar to each bottle, and then re-cap. But I would be worried about bottle bombs. So maybe someone here can give you better advice in this regard... Other than buying a kegging system and transferring the whole thing, which some might advise...

Hope I was of some help. You didnt ruin anything, you just had a learning experience. I have them with every brew and I have more than a dozen under my belt. No worries.
 

The Blow Leprechaun

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1) we didn't have a gravity reader or a thermometer... b/c my brewcouncil is a bunch of poor engineering undergrads... stuff was done by guesswork.
Hydrometers are cheap. Get one.
2) we boiled the grains in the water the entire 1.5h of brewing (seems like a really big woops... heh...)
The danger here is tannin extraction. You didn't mention a lot of tannins in your description of how it tastes, so I suppose you dodged that bullet.
3) I believe we pitched the yeast in to wort that was /waaaay/ too hot. The mild Lambic-offness may be the result of our original yeast not being the yeast doing the fermenting... :) But we did get a HUGE blowoff within 17h... so something was in there.
Likely you killed a whole bunch of the yeast at the beginning, but apparently not all of it. The fruitiness you're getting is likely in part because the yeast were really stressed.
4) ... additionally we didn't aerate our wort... so probably our weak yeast all but died... the only reason it didn't get infected with some grody air is that as engineers we were extremely careful about sanitation. (read: UV-lamp cabinet)
Again, stressed yeast.
5) stuff came up... it sat in the primary for about 10 days... which may or may not be bad? who knows.
That's a pretty short time for a RIS, but you've had it in bottles for a bit it looks like.

The fruitiness is likely because you stressed the hell out of your yeast in pretty much every way you could without killing them. Next time, brew a Belgian and you'll be right in the tradition ;)

As to how to recarbonate bottles that are too flat... that's tough. How did you prime them in the first place?
 

paul_h

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Carbonation drops are worth a try. If the yeast is still alive somehow after all that, carbonation drops are an easy way to reprime the bottles without massive foam explosions. If that doesn't work, you need to pour the bottles in a keg and carb it up. If you don't know anyone with the gear, just hire the gas bottle, keg, reg, lines and tap for the week end and drink up.
 
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As mentioned above, how did you prime before? You did add something at bottling time for carbonation right? Beer won't carb magically because it knows its in a bottle. Sugars must be added at bottling be it Cane Sugar, Corn Sugar, DME, Honey, Molasses, ect....
 
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Ninjaneer

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5.) Not quite sure what you mean... But most likely you didnt get all of the gunk out when you racked from boiling vessel to fermenting vessel. Also, when the wort has a hot break and then a cold break protein flocculate and fall out of the beer. Usually haze around a bit and then settle. Along with leftover hop pieces, dead yeasties, etc.

Where to go with it from here?
1) An RIS can last a while, and changes tastes with age. Between the date of boil to when you open your first bottle could easily be 3 - 3.5 months or so, so if you're drinking earlier, maybe it is a touch green.
5) I meant that some engineering finals came up and we let it sit for a while after it stopped bubbling -- which is bad because of traub or something? But some people said that we needed to leave it sitting longer?!?

6) 3 months!? wow we're no where near that! maybe it'll carb? :rockin:


to the others:

we primed our stout with some brewing sugar... I dunno what it was exactly -- got it from our local brewstore...

:off: I also started my second brew the other day... a Hefe... had a thermometer and hydrometer (O.grav. reading: 1.065) but I still pitched the yeast a little hot -- I should have waited, but I was afraid of contamination, the wort was cooling off so slowly (after 1h it was at around 100deg F ... pitched at 90 :( ) The hefe is in our mini-fridge now @68deg F -- smells bananna-y. I really gotta build a wort cooler soon here.
 

oberon567

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Yeah, I have yet to build anything to lower the temp more quickly in order to pitch, so I just wait it out. Usually with the sterilized lid loosely on, or sterilized aluminum foil loosely on. There are numerous other benefits to cooling quickly, though, concernign reducing the potential off flavors as well as helping some gunk drop out and clear up your beer, so I need to get something done in that regard too.

5.) You can leave a brew in a primary on a yeast cake for almost a month before anything funky starts happening. Old wisdom said to move it after 10 days, max, to avoid yeastie flavor. New wisdom says that Old Wisdom is rubbish, leave it on there longer, let the yeast do ALL of its work, including cleaning up after itself, and ensure that your fermentation is complete.

6.) Unlikely - the carbonation should happen pretty quickly, as the introduction of new sugars provide ready nutrients for the yeast floating around. Assuming you didnt bottle and put into 40 degree storage, you shoudl be carbonated by now. The 3 months is not for carbonation, it is for the flavors to create a different harmony. As beer ages different types of flavors do different things. Some of the acrid flavor from the roasted malts will settle a bit without sacrificing the roasty flavor, and this helps balance the overall flavor. (Lots of other things happen too, more than I could talk about, but it has to do with flavor, not carbonation).

Congrats on the hefe - 90 is really hot for a pitch, but banana-y is the smell you want, so kudos. It is obviously fermenting, and it is not a high gravity brew so even if you killed off yeast it should ferment out all the way, no problem. There will be some off flavors, but that is part of the process. NOTE - Wheat beers do not keep as well as other beers do. I do not know the numbers but I know you are going to want to drink the hefe pretty quickly. Put it this way - you should finish drinking the whole batch of hefe far before finishing the whole batch of imperial stout...
 
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Ninjaneer

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6)Some of the acrid flavor from the roasted malts will settle a bit without sacrificing the roasty flavor, and this helps balance the overall flavor. (Lots of other things happen too, more than I could talk about, but it has to do with flavor, not carbonation).

... Put it this way - you should finish drinking the whole batch of hefe far before finishing the whole batch of imperial stout...
6) hmm well I'd love to hear what you know about flavors, or if you wanna share a good link or so I'd def. read it in a bit (writing a play right now)

and def. the Hefe will go down the hatch but quick... I love hefe and so do the rest of the boys down in engineering -- except 1... and he's the guy who bought the RIS ingredients... :)

I'll sit it out for another month on the RIS. The hefe has been fermenting for 4 days now... advise when to hit secondary? ( I know some people say don't do this with a hefe... but theres about 2 inches of gunk in the bottom... no doubt it'll compact... but still maybe 2ndary would be a good idear?) OR barring that... when should we bottle? I've heard 2 weeks at a cold ferment with a hefe... also there's an issue of me needing to buy some sort of container for it.... :(
 
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Ninjaneer

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Probably corn sugar, how did you add it? Did you add it to the bottling bucket, or try to add some directly to each bottle?
to 1cup hot water, dissolved in, then poured it into the primary, waited a bit, then siphoned into bottles.

bad idea?
 

oberon567

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Somethign that helps mix it up better is pouring the dissolved sugar into a bottling bucket, and then racking from the primary to the bottling bucket, and then siphoning into bottles. (Also, bottling buckets usually have a spigot on them, making it easier.) This helps mix the carbing sugar throughout the wort and it can also help reduce sediment.
 

The Blow Leprechaun

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to 1cup hot water, dissolved in, then poured it into the primary, waited a bit, then siphoned into bottles.

bad idea?
No, that'll pretty much work. The idea is to get the priming sugar solution thoroughly mixed with the wort before adding it to the bottles. If you add the sugar directly to each bottle, it's very easy to over or under prime individual ones.

You don't remember how much sugar it was? Did it come in a little bag already measured out? A lot of times those are 5 ounces, which should be more than enough priming sugar for your beer, but if it was only 1-2 ounces, you might feel it's undercarbed.
 

The Blow Leprechaun

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Does it have no carbonation, or just too little?

I suppose it's possible the yeast reach their alcohol toxicity or something, although that seems like a long shot.

If you had a gravity reading before you bottled, you could try and take another gravity reading. If it's higher, you've still got priming sugar in there and the yeast couldn't do it... you could maybe add a small amount of yeast to each bottle, like a champagne yeast, that would have no trouble at all with the alcohol. The risk with that is if the original yeast pooped out, there could still be fermentables in there that the champagne yeast will also get, and things could go boom.

Really, if you can stand to drink it as it is, I'd probably just do that, but if you're going to be pouring it out, you might as well try to fux with it.
 
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Ninjaneer

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too little... I kind of tasted tiny bubbles somewhere in there... but it flats rather quicklike.


taste ain't too bad.

I'll try another bottle here in a bit.
 

GIusedtoBe

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You can cool the wort pretty quickly by buying a cheap plastic toy basket at Wally World for about $6 and then make an ice bath with two or three bags of ice at about $4 or less total. Stick the brewpot in the ice bath and in 30 minutes it will be at pitching temp no sweat. Don't worry it will not get contaminated.

Of course this only works with extract partial boils but then I'm sure thats what you are doing.

Good Luck
Al
 

DonkeyShoes

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carbonation is related to temp...if your beer is not in the fridge the CO2 will not dissolve into the beer as readily. also a high alcoho; beer like RIS takes time to condition...wait longer and it will taste good.
 

The Blow Leprechaun

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carbonation is related to temp...if your beer is not in the fridge the CO2 will not dissolve into the beer as readily. also a high alcoho; beer like RIS takes time to condition...wait longer and it will taste good.
He'd had it in bottles for 5-6 weeks when this thread started, which was at least a week ago, I think. It shouldn't take that long for the beer to carbonate, which is the issue here, not how conditioned it is.

Also, you do not want your beer in the fridge during the carbonation process if it's an ale, the cold temps will drop the yeast out. Refrigerating the beer helps the carbonation that already exists get into solution so it doesn't just all get released from the head space when you open it - but even if you don't refrigerate it at all, it will still have the CO2, which it seems like his beer doesn't.
 
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Ninjaneer

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Good news, gentlemen. The RIS is carbonated, and all the funky flavors mellowed out significantly. The stout is great! It still tastes mighty alcoholy, but it's quite awesome. I can't really describe it's taste and I'm having a hard time typing this, but I want to share the news.
 
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