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First time brewing, input would be much appreciated

Hello, I am a first time brewer and made a few mistakes in the initial process. I am hoping to get some feedback and input to improve my next batch. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I purchased the american amber ale http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/amer … t-kit.html from northern brewer. Somehow (I am blaming my roommate for this one) we forgot to steep the grains before adding the hops and malt. So what we did is took about 2 gallons of our wort (all the hops and malt had been added to wart at this point), reheated it on the stove and steeped the grain in, then re added it to the bucket (before adding the yeast). It then took us a few hours to get the wort down to a cool enough temperature to add the yeast. When we added the yeast the nutrient pack was not popped open, but after reading some other discussions this shouldn’t be much of a problem. The place where we live in florida does not have a basement and the room where the beer is being kept is about 74 degrees. I put it in a muck bucket with about 4 inches of water in the bottom and am rotating frozen bottles of water to put in the bucket to keep the beer a few degrees colder (unfortunately there are going to be temperature fluctuations but we are attempting to keep it between 60 and 70 degrees). This morning I was ecstatic to see signs of fermentation (today is thursday morning, the beer was done tuesday night).
My major concerns are :

  1. Steeping the grains after the malt and hops were added
  2. Temperature changes as the yeast ferments
  3. Any suggestions on a better system for maintaining the proper temperature (60-70 degrees)

If that’s all the problems you had you’re doing well. You should pick up John Palmer’s book, or visit his website here:

http://www.howtobrew.com/intro.html

For other suggestions, just read up on things. Water baths are great for fermentation cooling, but there are a slew of other items you can get to help, some cheap some not so much.

Rather than bore you with what I have to say, just google your problem and you should be able to find a solution. The community online is pretty expansive.

Welcome to the community BTW.

+1 to the book. it’s a big help. welcome.

Obviously, steeping the grains the way you did isn’t ideal, but you’ll do it right next time. It shouldn’t be the end of the world for your beer, though. If you brew the same beer again you can see what the difference is.

I live in Florida as well, so I’m aware of the temp issues. I brewed my first 10 or so batches at room temp (75ish). Not ideal, but they came out good enough. I use a swamp cooler now and can keep beers around 62. The more water you have around the beer the better off you are. It takes longer the the temps to fluctuate. I use a cooler with the water filled up to the half way mark or so on the bucket. I have to switch out frozen water bottles a few times a day to keep temps down.

Welcome to the obsession!

Cheers!

You have pinpointed a couple areas of concern that are definitely good to concentrate on in the future. Nothing terrible in your first attempt, but things I would look at in the future.

#1 - Yeast - learn to make a yeast starter - youtube, forums, palmer’s book, etc. While you can pitch the yeast from the package, making a yeast starter is one of the simplest/best things you can do to improve your beer.

#2 - Cooling - the quicker you can cool your wort the better. As soon as you think you are going to continue to brew, get a wort chiller. Until then, do whatever you can to cool wort fast (ice bath,etc.)

#3 - Stable fermentation temps. Ideally, you want your wort in the 60’s (for ales) when you pitch your yeast and you want to hold fermentation temps. in the low to mid 60’s if at all possible. When you get in the 70’s you are risking some off flavors. You are already on the right track with this. Other ideas to help - put a shirt or cloth around the carboy or bucket that a is in the water. Put a fan on it to cause evaporation from the wet shirt/cloth - this will cool a bit more. Invest in a fermentation fridge/freezer with temp. control is the best solution. WIndow airconditioner in a small room…

You did not mention them, but here are a couple others - don’t be in a hurry. Leave your beer in primary fermenter for 2-3 weeks. Lots of people just go 3 week primary and then bottle. Or, if you want to move to a secondary - still leave it in primary for 2 weeks first.

Sanitation - the BIGGEST part of brewing good beer. Use a CLEANER and rinse (PBW or oxyclean for example) and then a NO RINSE SANITIZER (starsan).

You are off to a good start, and most importantly, recognized the correct places to make improvements.

You mentioned a bucket with 4" of water. Probably not nearly enough. You need a mass of water that you can keep cool with frozen bottles and your fermentation vessel should be at least 50-60% submerged in that water. When I was doing that, I had a cooler that was big enough for two 6 gallon ale pales for swamp cooling

You saw the mistakes - GOOD! Also good: You beer will be OK.
Congrats, let us know how it turns out.

Thank you very much for the feedback. I am definitely going to try the yeast starter kit for my next batch among some of the other things you guys suggested. Also, great advice about adding more water to minimize the temperature fluctuations, I should have thought of that.
@Braufessor et al : Are there any disadvantages to the method of skipping the secondary fermentor and bottling after 3 weeks of primary?
Does anyone know the advantage of rapidly cooling your wort other than minimizing the time for colonization by unwanted bacteria?

  • Patrick

As for to secondary or not, you will hear both sides of the debate. I think a lot of people use secondary to help clear their beer and will swear it makes better beer. I don’t use a secondary and when I do (dry hopping) it doesn’t seem to make a difference. That will be up to you to decide what makes sense. It has been mentioned that the more times you touch your beer, the more risk you have of contamination. Racking to secondary is an additional step where that could be an issue. If you’re confident in your sanitizing abilities (which really only comes over time), then doing it is no problem. Fermenting 3 weeks, bottling, let them sit for a week or two to carb up at room temp, then putting them in the fridge to clear up seems to work well for lots of people…including me.

Rapidly cooling your wort doesn’t allow the proteins time to form long complex chains. In this case what that means for you is that the shorter, simpler chains they form will drop out of the solution at a much more manageable temperature.

In essence, a quick cool after your boil = cleaner looking bear. Please note though that this will not impact your flavor profile whatsoever.

[quote=“Pedreyer”]
Does anyone know the advantage of rapidly cooling your wort other than minimizing the time for colonization by unwanted bacteria?

  • Patrick[/quote]

It should not be a big issue for extract brewing but in addition to the cold break mentioned, DMS is decreased by cooling fast. DMS forms above 140F. It has a cooked corn taste. The quicker you go from boiling to 140F the less time DMS has to form.

It should not be a big issue for extract brewing but in addition to the cold break mentioned, DMS is decreased by cooling fast. DMS forms above 140F. It has a cooked corn taste. The quicker you go from boiling to 140F the less time DMS has to form.

I agree with rapid cooling, but will DMS reform after the boil? If so, how do you prevent it in a hopstand? I’ve always cooled quickly, so I haven’t experienced it.

BTW, welcome to the club, Pedreyer. :cheers:

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