When will I know if I messed up my first brew?

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justaguy88

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So last night I attempted my first brew. Aside from the fact that the whole process took a bit longer than I thought it would and I was working into the wee hours of the night, I screwed up during one of the VERY finals steps of the process and am worried that I have ruined my beer!

Basically, after my wort had cooled to 75 degrees and I poured in my additional pre-boiled water, I realized that I did not have enough sanitized water to hit five gallons. This on its own was extremely frustrating, because what I then had to do was boil MORE water and cool it to pitching temperature at about 2:00am. Not my idea of a good time.

So, I boiled the water and cooled it the same way I did my wort-in the kitchen sink with an ice bath. Here's where the mistake comes in.

As I am dizzy from fatigue, I grabbed the cooled pot of water from the sink and went to pour it in my fermenting bucket with the rest of the wort but didn't realize that, of course, the bottom of the pot just came out of the cooling water. When I dumped the pot, unsanitized water dripping off the bottom trickled into the fermenting bucket!

My heart stopped when I saw that. I was so bummed because I had been so good about sanitization up until that point. If I had to estimate the amount of water that got in the bucket, I'd say maybe a table spoon. The water wasn't dirty, but was unsanitized and directly from my tap.

My question is how likely is it that I contaminated and wrecked my first batch, and WHEN will I know if I have gotten infected?

Presently, my bucket is sealed and in my closet. Six hours have passed since I pitched my yeast and there are not yet any signs of activity. My OG is approximately 1.04.

Thanks for your input in advance...
 

mrduna01

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You will most likely be fine. When I do extract batches and add the top off water, I add cold water directly from the faucet and have never had any problems what so ever.
 

iswenson

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Dude your fine don't worry about it. I don't even boil my top-off water. I think there is a misconeption about having to brew in a level VIII clean room. Its just beer.
 

Thehopguy

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Hey man. I personally think your gonna be fine. 6 hours isnt much time unless you used a yeast starter, even so, relax your still fine. It'll ferment, it'll be fine, and you made beer that you can enjoy in about 6 weeks time (assuming you'll be bottle conditioning).

On a second note, welcome to homebrewing!
 

Goaltender66

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The first batch is always the hardest. Not from the technique...but from the worrying.

A tbsp of water isn't going to kill your beer, that is unless you have a third world municipal water source. Even then I'd put your odds of a bad beer at 20%.

An infection will be evident from odd colors in the sediment, strange odors in the fermented batch, or for that matter a stuck fermentation.

A couple of notes: When you're topping off a batch and you elect to top off with boiled water, be sure you're aerating the wort properly. Boiled water has little to no dissolved oxygen in it, and yeast need the oxygen to survive. However, do me a favor and don't start worrying about your O2 levels now...just leave the beer alone and you'll be happy with it. Remember the rule of thumb...humanity has been brewing beer throughout history in conditions much more primitive than what we enjoy today.

You'll be fine.
 
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justaguy88

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The first batch is always the hardest. Not from the technique...but from the worrying.

A tbsp of water isn't going to kill your beer, that is unless you have a third world municipal water source. Even then I'd put your odds of a bad beer at 20%.

An infection will be evident from odd colors in the sediment, strange odors in the fermented batch, or for that matter a stuck fermentation.

A couple of notes: When you're topping off a batch and you elect to top off with boiled water, be sure you're aerating the wort properly. Boiled water has little to no dissolved oxygen in it, and yeast need the oxygen to survive. However, do me a favor and don't start worrying about your O2 levels now...just leave the beer alone and you'll be happy with it. Remember the rule of thumb...humanity has been brewing beer throughout history in conditions much more primitive than what we enjoy today.

You'll be fine.

Haha, very true. I guess your response and the others put into perspective that I'm worrying about something comparatively small.

I shook up the wort quite a bit after I added the additional pre-boiled gallon. I didn't use a yeast starter, but I did rehydrate my yeast in 85-90 degree water (I know, a bit hot, but from what I read that shouldn't have killed anything). We'll see how it goes. I will try to stop worrying now...
 

LVBen

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Your beer will probably be fine! Wait until it is completely done fermenting, carbonated, and cold.
 

smalliewader

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You're supposed to re-hydrate your yeast in 85*-90* water. Don't bother boiling your top off water anymore, it's not necessary. All you did was make your brew time a lot longer than it needed to be. Just make sure you sanitize the vessel you carry it from tap to fermenter in.
 

Revvy

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Get out of the mindset that you're beer is a week mewling baby, that is easily ruined, even if you make a tiny mistake. Your beer is stronger than that....

Read this and relax;

revvy said:
I'm going to give you my serious answer to your question, about when you should stop WORRYING about infection. The answer is you should never WORRY about infection, or really anything else about this hobby. Because that is what it is, it is a hobby after all, and a really hard one to screw up.

Now it doesn't mean you ignore proper sanitation practices, and cut corners, or that you don't be careful about things, it is just that you stop thinking of your beer as a weak newborn baby.

It may appear that there's a ton of infection threads, BUT if you actually read the content of the threads, and not just the title, you will realize that there's not a lot of actual infections, just a bunch of scared new brewers who don't realize how ugly fermentation can actually be.

Just like you, I bet, they think that their beer is a lot weaker than it truly is. Just the opposite, it is really really hard to get an infection.

And infections RARELY happen to the new brewers who are so paranoid that they think the mere looking at their fermenters will induce an infection.

Most of the time on here the beer in question is not infected. It's just a nervous new brewer, who THINKS something is wrong when in reality they are just unused to the ugliness that beer making often is.

It creates sort of like the hypochodria that med students often get when they start learning about illness, they start to "feel" it in themselves.

There is a lot of info here on "infections" https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f39/has-anyone-ever-messed-up-batch-96644/

This is one of the best posts on the subject....

If you pitch enough viable, healthy yeast to do their job, it's hard to contaminate your brew to the point it isn't drinkable. Trust me, I've had an infection in my brewery, and I had to work really hard to get it! :D In my case, it was on the fourth generation of re-using yeast which I had not washed properly (I was still a n00b back then). Every time you reuse yeast you are growing the level of contamination by 100-1000x, so I learned the hard way you have to be very careful going beyond 1 or 2 re-uses of yeast.

BUT A new brewer following sanitary procedures using new equipment is very unlikely to have ruined beer. The worst thing that may happen is your beer will go sour after 4-6 months of room temperature storage. I doubt your beer will last that long. :rolleyes:
You'll find that since beer has been made for millenia even before anyone understood germ theory, that even just the basic fact that we have indoor water, clean our living spaces and ourselves regularly and have closed waste systems, and a roof over our heads, that we are lightyears ahead of our ancestor brewers.

And despite the doomsayers who say that ancient beer was consumed young because it would go bad, they forget the fact that most of those beers were usually HOPLESS, and that the biggest reason hops were placed in beers was for it's antisceptic/preservative function.

So even if the beer had to be consumed young, it still must have tasted good enough to those folks most of the time to survive culturally for 4,000 years, and not go the way of pepsi clear or new coke. I'm sure even a few hundred or thousands of years ago, people were discerning enough to know if something tasted good or nasty...

Go take a look at my photo walkthrough of Labatt's first "pioneer" brewery from the 1840's https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f85/labatt-pioneer-brewery-128740/

Wood fermenters, open cooling pans, open doors, cracks in the logs and beams letting air in, and not one bottle of starsan in sight. :D

The way I figure even just having some soap and water, basic 21st century hygiene, and a basic understanding of germ theory trumps how it was done from Gilgamesh's time through Louis Pasteure's....

In most places we don't have to even worry about boiling our water before drinking it. :D

Best advice I have for new brewers, If you brew from fear, you won't make great beer!

You might make drinkable beer, or you might make crap...but until your realize that your beer is much hardier than you think it is, you will find that this is much more enjoyable of a hobby.

But infection worry, It is NOT something we have to freak out about, like new brewers do...It's just something to be AWARE of and keep an eye out.

But it's kinda like when you have a brand new car, you park at the far end of the lot away from everyone else, you are paranoid about getting every little scratch on it...Then you are backing out of the garage and take off a mirror, or get a ding on the bumper, then you no-longer stress out about it, because you've popped the cars cherry...If you do pick up a bug, you just treat it and move on.

And the reason I have collected THESE stories is to counter the fear and fear mongering that often happens.

So rather than looking for infections under every bed or in every brew closet, focussing from fear on the negative, I think it's better to look at examples of just how hard it is to screw up our beer, how no matter what we can do to screw up, it still manages to turn out fine.

https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f39/wh...where-your-beer-still-turned-out-great-96780/

And there is a cushion of co2 protecting your beer, so unless you or a bird take a crap in your fermenter, opening it up to take hydrometer readings will not lead you to automatically have infections...

Just relax about infections, and enjoy brewing.
We've sunk body parts in our fermenters and still the beer has turned out great as the stories above illustrate- No matter how absolutely boneheaded we are, the beer usually get's the best of us and manages to survive...so there's no point in stressing out over every little mistake.

:mug:
 
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jcdouglas

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I never boil my water, I top it off straight from the faucet and never had any problems. You'll be fine. In fact, buy another bucket (or carboy or better bottle) and brew another batch!
 

PA49erFan21

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I'm a beginner myself and I have not had a problem since since I started buying ingredient kits from my LHBS. I always boil as much wort as I can fit in the kettle I am using. Once it's done boiling, I cool it in an ice bath until around 90 degrees, then I pour it into the fermenter followed by topping it off at the 5 gallon mark using tap water.

The first batch is always the hardest and I am proof of that. Good luck!
 

WineChief

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Very informative thread. I have 2 questions based on what I read here. First, since hops impart a disinfectant/preservative quality, why don't they hurt the yeast?

Second, if beer is so hard to infect (maybe not the best choice of wording), why the worry about chilling it down to pitching temperature so quickly. I've read about the range of temps where infection is more likely, but shouldn't the boiling have killed off everything and covering it up until it is cool enough prevent infection?
 

LVBen

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Very informative thread. I have 2 questions based on what I read here. First, since hops impart a disinfectant/preservative quality, why don't they hurt the yeast?
Just like many preservatives, hops are anti-bacterial in some ways, but they are not a perfect sanitizer, especially not at the concentrations that we use them in.

Second, if beer is so hard to infect (maybe not the best choice of wording), why the worry about chilling it down to pitching temperature so quickly. I've read about the range of temps where infection is more likely, but shouldn't the boiling have killed off everything and covering it up until it is cool enough prevent infection?
If you have it in a perfectly sealed and sanitized container, you can store wort for months at a time, but if you are not very careful, the wort will spoil, and if something gets into your wort before your yeast, it will have plenty of time to multiply. Some microbes can go from 1 cell to millions of cells in just a day or two. However, as soon the yeast starts producing alcohol, most wild fungi and bacteria will not survive in it, but there is still risk of some infections even after there is alcohol in it.
 

joelmole

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Second, if beer is so hard to infect (maybe not the best choice of wording), why the worry about chilling it down to pitching temperature so quickly. I've read about the range of temps where infection is more likely, but shouldn't the boiling have killed off everything and covering it up until it is cool enough prevent infection?
Cooling quickly is partially about getting the beer out of the danger zone, but mostly about promoting cold break, and preserving hop aroma.
 
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