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New to the craft, need some insight

Good morning everybody,

I am new to the craft and am excited to learn from everybody on here. Please forgive me if i ask remedial questions, but having read different posts it seems like everyone is willing to help and that is appreciated! I have been reading and researching on this forum trying to get a feel for the processes and methods leading up to my first brew and everyone is very helpful and informative! I just popped the top of my first beer last evening (great feeling!) , and i feel something is off. i will try to keep this as short as possible, but also give a detailed account of my process.

I purchased back around Christmas a deluxe starter kit (5 gallon plastic fermentor 5, gallon plastic bottling bucket and all associated pieces for a started kit) and my brew day was 12/29/17. The kit came with the Block Party Amber Ale. I feel brew day went very well, I followed istructions and monitored temps very closely during steeping of grains and boil and made sure that nothing went over temp. After the boil was done i cooled the wort to 100 degrees F as the instructions say (I do not have an immulsion chiller yet) in my sink. Since during the boil obviously I lost some water due to boiling so I added water as stated in the kit to get my back to 5 gallons of wort.

I then monitored and pitched my yeast at exactly 78 degrees. Then sealed my fermentor. When I pitched the yeast i just poured on top of the wort and did not rock back and forth to try an mix in

I then brought my fermentor to my dark basement to ferment for 2 weeks. My basement stays at a constant 65 degrees, and for the first few days I had active fermentation bubbling into the air lock. One thing that i need to purchase is a hydrometer. I did not have one for my first brew.

Fast forward to bottling day 1/12/18. I opened the fermentor and it smelled great! As I stated before I dont have a hydrometer yet so I couldnt take any readings. I used my bottling bucket to sanitize all bottling utensils and bottles with One step cleaner. While the bottles were drying I boiled my priming sugar solution and dumped that into the empty bottling bucket, and the proceded to syphon my beer into the bucket, being careful to not get the sludge from the bottom of the fermentor. Kit says it would make 54, i got 48 due to leaving some in the bucket after syphoning due to the fear of sucking the sludge, and i lost some due to spilling (you know how it goes). Those 48 went back to the basement until yesterday for a 2 week room temp rest.

Yesterday before I went to work, I grabbed 2 from downstairs and put them in the fridge, anxiously awaiting getting home and popping the top of my first homebrew! Popped the top and poured into a glass. It didnt have much head (not sure if that means anything or not) smelled great but tasted a little flat to me, (a little discouraging) and didnt have much carbonation as the coors i opened after it to ponder what I may have done wrong.

All equipment and bottles were sanitized with one step.

My question: do yall think it needs more time to carbonate? or does it sound like I can improve on a step somewhere? I believe I went into detail on everything, if you need clarification, just ask.

Thank you very much, and I appreciate any and all imput/criticism, as I want this to become a nice way to occupy my time! I look forward to learning from everyone.

David

Let start with welcome to the the hobby of home brewing! If you stay as determined as many peeps here are, you’ll enjoy brewing and get the best rewards from your hobby… Some really great brews! With that said, there will be some tweaks you’ll find… the one that stood out was pitching yeast into 78* wort… I will pitch yeast about 65-ish… Not a big issue for you now… Your basement is at 65*, for carbonating, you’d like your bottles at 70, or perhaps a bit higher… You can carb at 65… will take longer… Hydrometer or refractometer, to me, is a must… It will tell you what your ABV will be. It will also help you, when doing all grain, how well you’ve mashed… converted starch into sugar… Reading alot of info on brewing will help you tremendously, and help steer you in the right direction… Again, welcome, and do ask questions… we’re here to help. Sneezles61

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Welcome to the forum and the obsession that we call homebrewing @yager1012. There’s tons of knowledge here so don’t be shy. The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask.

Your process looks pretty solid except for the temp of wort when pitching yeast. Low 60’s is where you want temp at for most ales. Although your basement may be 65 ambient temp, those yeasties work up some heat during fermentation and would be working around 70 degrees instead. Not a huge deal right now but you will learn that ferm temps are as big as anything in brewing. As for the carbonation, I would move them to a warmer room in the house and maybe a shake or two for each bottle. When bottling it always good to stir the beer up every so many bottles to make sure the priming solution stays mixed throughout. If not, some bottles may have more or less carbonation.

As @sneezles61 and @brewmanchu say 65° for fermentation is great but not ideal for carbonation. Also it is a good idea to stir gently every so often to ensure your priming sugar stays in suspension.

Another little trick is to fill a plastic 20oz (or smaller) and squeeze the air out. As it carbonates it will swell the bottle. This will give you an indication of what’s going on in your glass bottles.

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Welcome to the hobby/obsession. I agree with the others that you pitched your yeast a bit too warm but I know the instructions on lots of kits probably still say cool below 80 to pitch… Your fermentation temp wasn’t bad. You could improve it with a swamp cooler or fan to keep the fermenting beer in the low to mid 60s which is the sweet spot for most ales.

My concern is that you bottled so soon. Not even two weeks. Without having a hydrometer to test gravity you risk having bottle bombs if your beer wasn’t done fermenting yet. Having said that…it likely was considering the warm fermentation temperature but…more on that…

Your beer isn’t fully carbed yet, partially due to the cooler temperature in your basement and that’s maybe a good thing considering the short ferment time. If you move your bottles to a warmer place they’ll carbonate quicker. However it could also increase the risk of bottle bombs so I’d put them in a rubbermaid type bin or at least a carboard box and inside a closet or some enclosed area and check on them daily. When the beer is bottled before it’s finished fermenting it’s possible to overcarbonate to the point of stressing the glass bottle. They’ll explode…violently. Bottle bombs can be dangerous and messy.

I’ve pushed beers through fermentation and into the bottle or keg faster than two weeks but always used a hydrometer to make sure i’ve reached terminal graviety. You do this by checking gravity 2-3 times over a few days. If the gravity remains constant then the beer is done. Your beer will also improve with longer time in the fermenter and on the yeast, within reason of course. 3-4 weeks is generally a accepted length of time on the yeast.

What was disappointing about the beer besides the carbonation? How did it taste? Understand taht proper carbonation can definitely impact the taste positively.

@sneezles61 - Thanks for the information, I read back thru the brew day instruction and it says 78* or LOWER guess in the midst of everything i just read 78*. Testing supplies are a top item on my list to purchase before my next batch. Last night I put a case of 24 into the fridge, and the ther case of 24 I just moved into a main level room, which with the door closed is 70*, to try and aid in the carbonation with the increase in temperature. Are the 24 that were in the fridge a loss at this point? Or can i bring them into the 70*? I feel with the temp difference they may be lost?

@dannyboy58 - You are correct in saying the kit can be vague on when to pitch! I agree that it is not fully carbonated yet, now that i have moved 24 into my 70* room (not sure about the 24 i put into the fridge yesterday) how long should i give them to try and carbonate? another week? two weeks?

I understand that without testing supplies i truly had no way of knowing if fermentation was done, but i waited exactly 14 days from brewday to bottling day (brew day 12/29 to bottle day 1/12) I am not trying to sounds cross by saying I waited exactly 14 days, just trying to make sure wwe are both on the same page, so I can get the best information and improve my game!

Other than the lacking carbonation, the smell was excellent, smelled like a good Amber Ale, the taste seemed low though, and left kind of an off after taste on the tongue. thats the best way I can describe it.

So as a whole:

Are the brews that are currently in the fridge gonners? or can they be saved?
How much approximate time at 70* until they are carbbed? or is it a trial and error?

I appreciate all the responces, and I am already gaining knowledge!

Cheers, David

I didnt think to stir every so often on bottle day to ensure tha the priming sugar didnt settle. I will usse the trick with the plastic bottle in the future as well! Thanks!

As I stated in the responce to sneezles, I have moved the half that i didnt put in the fridge to a 70* room on my main level, and I gave the bottles a gentle shake. What is your take on the ones that i put in the fridge and they stayed for over 12 hrs? Can they be brought into the house or will the temp swing create an off taste.

Thanks for the imput!

Take the ones out of the fridge and once they warm up they’ll start to carb. You might try opening another just to see if the carbonation level is the same as the the first one. If you didn’t have the sugar mixed well they may be unevenly carbed. In the future if you stir during bottling just be sure to do it gently so you don’t oxidize your beer.

As to the 14 days fermentation I see you’re correct. I was on my first cup of coffee earlier… Thing is…yeast don’t look at the calendar. They work on their own time regardless the arbitrary schedules we humans try to force them into. A hydrometer is an essential piece of equipment. Never understood why they don’t put them in the starter kits. Of course I don’t understand why they still give out such horrible directions with the kits either. Every yeast has a temperature tolerance range that will be stated on the package or on the manufacturers website. You want to try and ferment near the lower end of the temperature range for the best results especiallyt for the first 3-4 days of active fermentation. After that you can allow it to warm to room temp. This temperature rise is beneficial to keep the yeast active and allow them to clean up byproducts of fermentation. The first few days are the most critical with regard to temperature. Wort temp of 78 would kick the yeast party into overdrive and fermentation could be complete in less than 24 hours but would leave lots of byproducts that cause off flavors in the beer.

As to taste well, some amber ales are pretty bland…I’ve never brewed or tasted that one so I have no opinion on it. A good aroma is a good sign! If you could describe the aftertaste it might be easier to determine if it’s an issue or something that will age out of the beer.

Since you didn’t mention your water I assume you used tap water? Is it municipal water or from a private well? If city water did you treat it for chlorine or chloramine? If not that would definitely cause an aftertaste. Some yeast still in suspension could give you an aftertaste. Fermenting to warm could potentially cause all kinds of bad flavors. If your first beer is drinkable you’ll have gotten a better start on the hobby than I did!

Well my only real concern is you said you popped a Coors. You cannot compare a well made ale to a Coors. like mentioned above bottle condition warmer. I would dump them ( the Coors) the homebrew I’d give it some time and start planning your next batch. Welcome to the forum

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@dannyboy58 -I will give the brews some time at increased temp and give another a try and see if the carb is different, ive pretty much got them in the order they were bottled, I will give a few a try from different bottle times and see if i can narrow anything down.

I understand the first cup of coffee brain, I had to look at the calendar a few times to figure out my whole time frame, haha. i have noted what the info that you gave on fermentation scheduling, and temperatures.When I open another one I will see if I can figure out what the off taste could be comparable too.

As for the water–It is city water that runs through my water softner, thru my kitchen faucet. In my research i have seen a few threads on here and google pertaining too the water used for brewing, this is an area that I need to do more extensive research. My research time is limited as I have a 2 year old boy running on cabin fever with the Indiana winter, LOL.

I appreciate all of your helpful information!

@brew_cat- You are correct, they have very different tastes, That comment was more of a jab at my excitment of my first brew being squashed, haha. I understand that i may end up dumping my first batch and going back to the drawing board, but I am going to try the increase temperature and see if they can be revived. If not, ill take this information ive learned from everybody and try harder on my next batch!

Thanks for all of the info everyone! Youve been very helpful.

Municipal water through a water softener is probably the culprit for the taste. You may want to brew with bottled water

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You may try doing some one gallon batches to figure out the water then bottle off the fermenter using domino dots. It will cut your work down . Buy the little one a big gallon bottle of apple juice and use that for a fermenter. Or you could make a batch of apple Cider

The thought didnt even cross my mind on brew day about the salt in the soft water. Im sure that my hard municipal water would be no different…What about a pure water (one of those drinking water spouts with the inline filter that people put next to their sinks?) Im a plumber by trade so I could put that in cheap either in my kitchen or in my unfinsihed basement? (Future plan for brew room/bar area down there anyway)?

Im sure that a simple google search would yeild some good info on the water topic. Trying to get multiple perspectives and opinions. I will have to look once my son goes to bed tonight and ive got some free time.

Also, excellent suggestion on one gallon brew kits, the though never even crossed my mind! I was really weary about getting another 5 gallon kit and having to dump it. Gallon kits will really help me dial this all in and be less expensive.

Thanks!

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I don’t think your water is a problem, for now. Is it the best? No, but the only thing would be a higher sodium level. In regards to calcium, and other nutrients, it is already in the extract.

Work on getting your process down, including fermentation control and bottling. Then you can move onto water. Of course, since you’re a plumber by trade you could install an RO and use that water. Run it post softener and your filters will last longer.

Being a plumber is going to be very helpful in this hobby no shortage of stuff you can build. Welding comes in handy also. See where this is going? The beer can be secondary

Yager ,that’s German right ? This stuff is in your blood

Sodium will be high in the water processed through a water softener. This will cause an off flavor in some of the lighter less hopped styles of beer. The city water will also contain chlorine or chloramine which will be a source of off flavors. Often described as band aid if you have ever chewed one. A drinking water filter may remove chlorine if the flow is very slow through the filter and it is good condition.

Chlorine and chloramine can be removed from the water with Campden. One tablet will treat 20 gallons. Filters are made that will remove chlorine and chloramines. Haven’t priced them. A filter like this could be installed before the water conditioner to avoid the sodium. Extreme water hardness might shorten the life of one of these filters.

DME and LME are full of nutrients. You can brew using distilled or RO water when using extract and extract coupled with steeping grains. Give RO or distilled a try for your next brew to see if the off flavor no longer appears. Get the process down for producing great beers then go after the water problem.

edit: I haven’t chewed a band-aid but the aroma from the box is distinctive.

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@loopie_beer - I agree, i am going to nail down the process before I start messing with water.

@flars - Thank you for the information on the water. It seems to be one of the biggest variables to brewing, along with cleanliness. I think i will try some distilled water on my next go around. Going to dig a little deeper on this forum and google so that I can get everything together and have a successful second brew! Thanks! (also i can smell band-aid in my nose now haha)

Yager is german, also has some croation and Irish in the mix somewhere…I see where you are going, always good to have a hobby, I like to keep busy, hate just sitting around. If i sit for 5 minutes i am asleep LOL!

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