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Minor Mistakes--Action Needed?

Hi all, I’ve been a long-time lurker, and just got around to brewing my first batch. All in all, I’m pretty happy with it, though I made a few rookie mistakes and would like to know how to proceed from here.

The kit was NB Caribou Slobber extract with the Danstar Nottingham yeast. Brew day went very smoothly, fermentation started right up, and temperatures stayed in the mid-60’s throughout.

I made three mistakes, however.

First, I misunderstood the recipe and steeped the specialty grains off the heat just after I’d achieved a boil, removing the bag when the kettle temperature FELL to 170 degrees.

Second, five gallons of distilled water was my pre-boil volume. I’m wondering how much I lost to boil-off.

Third, I didn’t take a gravity reading before pitching.

One week later, primary fermentation has ceased, and my FG is 0.020–a little high. I’m wondering if this is because I extracted a lot of unfermentable sugars with my too-high steeping temperature, or because I’ve got less beer volume than I should.

I’ve tasted the gravity sample and it tastes great. Basically, I’m wondering if I need to do anything to encourage further attenuation, and if I should add some sterilized water to the secondary to bring the total volume up to the intended five gallons. Right now I’m inclined to just rack it to secondary and leave it alone.

First off, Welcome. None of your mistakes are detrimental. Steeping the grains the way you did will probably extract some tannins and may possibly give some off flavors but nothing to lose sleep over. second, you will lose approximately 1 gallon of liquid in a one hour boil. try to start with 6 gallons pre-boil volume to wind up with around 5 gallons in the fermenter. lastly, the original gravity reading is important to determine your alcohol by volume. Having said that, as long as you see good fermentation (your airlock bubbling away) and your final gravity reading is around 1.020 you’re in good shape. Your beer should be fine. Relax and enjoy!

With extract you are going to end with a higher FG. 1.020 is right in line with the CS extract kit. Your steep might have caused some astringency issues. However a steep is for color and flavor. It provides very little fermentables.

Gravity readings not only allow you to determine your ABV but also confirm that it has finished fermenting. Airlock activity is NOT reliable.

As far as your water… how much did you end up with in the fermenter? With extract, as long as you end up with 5 gals in fermenter you should hit your OG. If you started with 5 gals and ended up with 3.5 gals your OG is going to be higher. This could also affect your FG as the yeast either tires or can’t survive the higher alcohol percentage.

First: Your finished beer is likely to exhibit a “drying” aftertaste sensation in your mouth; think of how most wines behave. This is astringency from the tannin extraction. Otherwise, it shoudl be okay; at any rate, nothing can be done about this, now.

Second: Your beer is going to be higher strength, for sure, and you’ll only get about 3 gallons out of it. You might be able to salvage this. If you bottle condition, theoretically you could use your carbonation sugar dissolved into an unusually high amount of water (i.e., 1.5 gallons). I’ve never done this before, but in theory it seems like it would work.

Third: Gravity readings are mostly for recordkeeping. If you have access to a refractometer and a hydrometer, however, you can use the two to back-calculate your OG. Otherwise, don’t sweat it.

Thanks for all the replies. I should note that I have tasted the gravity samples with an eye out for astringency, and I haven’t noticed any. Fingers crossed there, but I think I’m ok.

I’m not sure exactly how much water I lost to boiloff, but I’d estimate that it was less than 1 gallon. My 6.5 gallon carboy is about 70% full, so let’s say I have 4.5 gallons. I think the best course of action is to rack it to secondary (I want to free up the big carboy to brew again), see how much I’ve got, and maybe top off the water when I bottle, per Silentknyght’s suggestion.

I had a long message typed. Hit submit and it disappeared.
Here is the short and brief.
Don’t use the secondary. Leave it in the primary for at least three weeks. Recheck SG before bottling. Yeast need time to clean up.
Don’t estimate boil off and add that volume. Top off the fermentor to 5 gallons instead.

Investigate making up some lost volume with a weak wort made with DME. Perhaps the yeast can be roused with gentle swirling to start eating again.

Good luck with your brew.

[quote=“Flashman137”]Thanks for all the replies. I should note that I have tasted the gravity samples with an eye out for astringency, and I haven’t noticed any. Fingers crossed there, but I think I’m ok.

I’m not sure exactly how much water I lost to boiloff, but I’d estimate that it was less than 1 gallon. My 6.5 gallon carboy is about 70% full, so let’s say I have 4.5 gallons. I think the best course of action is to rack it to secondary (I want to free up the big carboy to brew again), see how much I’ve got, and maybe top off the water when I bottle, per Silentknyght’s suggestion.[/quote]
Measure out 5 gallons of water and mark that level line on each carboy and bucket.

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