Back to Shopping at NorthernBrewer.com

Question from a first time brewer

I recently attempted my first homebrew, the White House Honey Ale small-batch recipe kit. The brew went pretty much according to plan, and I was careful to sanitize everything as much as possible. The only real hiccup - I made an ice bath in my sink to chill the wort, and I accidentally spilled a little bit of tap water into the wort when I removed the lid. It wasn’t a lot, and the tap water is pretty good, so I figured it shouldn’t make too much of a difference.

After moving the wort into a 1-gallon fermentor, I placed it in my closet. The next morning, about 10 hours later, I noticed that it was bubbling over, so I set up a blow-off tube into a bucket of sanitizer solution, as the instructions directed. I then cleaned and sanitized the airlock and put it back into place as usual once the overflow subsided. Now, most of the foam has gone down, but there seems to be a thick sludgy layer around the top of the fermentor. It seems as if it’s caked on around the top, like maybe residue from the overflow? Is this a problem? Should I remove the wort and clean that off? Any help is appreciated!

Nothing to worry about. Totally normal. It’s a build up of yeast. You’ll get that with every fermentation. Some more, some less.

Congrats and welcome to the obsession :cheers:

Okay, awesome. Thanks for your help! I have one other thing I’ve been wondering. I didn’t buy a hydrometer because I didn’t realize I needed one until I started browsing the forums. Should I be able to tell when fermentation is done just by looking at the beer?

You can’t look at a beer to tell when fermentation is done. A normal fermentation will finish, the yeast will do the clean up work of natural off flavors, and then begin settling to the bottom. The beer will look very clear.
The beer will also clear like this if there is a stuck fermentation. If this beer would be bottled fermentation may complete in the bottle causing dangerous pressures.
The hydrometer is the necessary tool for determining when fermentation is complete.

So is there no way for me to be sure that my fermentation is complete? given the fact that I didn’t have a hydrometer to take a gravity reading before I started fermentation. I went by the starter kit directions and it didn’t mention a hydrometer at all.

There is no way tell whether you have a completed fermentation or a stuck fermentation without a hydrometer.
Hydrometers are pretty cheap compared to other brewing equipment.

you should use a hydrometer, but to be honest for normal gravity ales I just wait 3-4 weeks then transfer to the kegs and then check the gravity. My reasoning is if the beer is not finished it never will be finished and I could just pour out the beer if it is not to the right gravity. But I have never had a beer that did not finish to a reasonable gravity. Normal gravity beers should be done by 2 weeks so waiting 3-4 weeks is for letting the yeast clean up after itself and for insurance. I’m not saying this is the right thing to do but if it will be a while before you get a hydrometer just give the beer a lot of time and you should be ok.

you should use a hydrometer, but to be honest for normal gravity ales I just wait 3-4 weeks then transfer to the kegs and then check the gravity. My reasoning is if the beer is not finished it never will be finished and I could just pour out the beer if it is not to the right gravity. But I have never had a beer that did not finish to a reasonable gravity. Normal gravity beers should be done by 2 weeks so waiting 3-4 weeks is for letting the yeast clean up after itself and for insurance. I’m not saying this is the right thing to do but if it will be a while before you get a hydrometer just give the beer a lot of time and you should be ok.

I basically do the same thing. I brew the beer, pitch the yeast, then set it in the fermentation area for 3-4 weeks and forget about it other than to monitor temperature. By the time I actually check the gravity, it is always done and well on the way to being clear.

Skipping the original gravity measurement is not part of this. You know fermentation is done (notice I didn’t say complete) when you get the same gravity reading a few days apart.

That said, I also just wait a couple of months and go straight into bottling. It burned me once when I didn’t realize I had a stuck fermentation, (it was done, but not complete.) The priming sugar woke the yeast back up, and in 2 cases I had 40+ extreme gushers and one nasty explosion. :evil: but for the other batches just waiting was good enough.

Back to your skipping the OG reading. For extract kits, depending on how well you top off, you will hit the OG number +/-0.005. You need the OG with your FG if you want to compute your final alcohol content; but for that purpose just assuming you hit an extract recipe’s advertised OG is fine. There are too many factors that can change your FG to just go by estimates, so you will really want an actual measurement there. When you get to partial mash or all-grain, you’ll see more variability on OG.

Honestly, for beginning brewing, I’m torn on whether pushing gravity readings helps with learning, or just makes the process seem over-complicated.

Okay, thanks all for the help. I ordered a hydrometer, so I suppose I should be all set. I’m kind of confused as to why the kit says nothing about this if it’s such an important piece of equipment and step in the process.

The kit designers thought you would have already read all of the best brewing books and previously purchased a hydrometer. They might also be just trying to compete for the initial low price hook.

Back to Shopping at NorthernBrewer.com