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Question(s) From a New Brewer

I recently purchased the 1 gallon starter kit from NB to brew as a project with my dad. The first batch was less than satisfactory. The taste was just off in a pretty major way. The first brew was the popular Irish Red Ale. While not exactly sure what happened, I think I narrowed down some contributing factors: not holding a constant boil, not ideal sterilization procedures, and just overall getting used to the process. For this first batch, fermentation took place very rapidly. It fermented vigorously for about 24 hours then dropped off fairly rapidly.

 We did our second batch (Saison au Miel) last night. To make sure that I kept a steady boil, the temperature was set pretty high, and in the end, a significant amount of water had boiled off so I topped it off before pitching. Already (within 12 hours) fermentation is taking place very rapidly as in the first batch. I'm worried the same flash fermentation will take place this time. Does anyone have experience with the fermentation patterns of Irish Red or the Saison au Miel? Can anyone share any tips for the areas of concern?

it sounds like the fast fermentation is a result of fermenting too warm. A too warm fermentation can create off flavors. warmer fermentations are standard with saisons, but you should be fermenting a bit cooler for an Irish red. how warm is it fermenting?

also, you might be pitching too much yeast for 1 gallon. how much and what kind of yeast did you add?

Like S. said, you are likely fermenting to warm. Even with a Saison I keep it cooler. But then I use WY3711 and it doesn’t need warm temps to finish fermenting.

You don’t need a “jump out of the pot” boil going. Just a steady rolling boil. And you are fine with adding tap water or ice cubes to bring the volume back up. They also help cooling down the wort.

Putting the fermenter in a tub or spare sink (sense you are doing a 1g batch) with a 1/2 filled frozen soda bottle will help keep the temps down. See my signature line for ideas used in 5 gallon batches that may work for 1 gallon batches.

Ambient room temperature is about 71 degrees F. For this second batch, I’m keeping it covered with a towel (not wet at the moment). The recipe sheet says fermentation for the Saison is good in the range of 63-77 degrees F. Should I wet the towel and submerge the carboy in a water bath? When pitching yeast, I added half the packet of the Danstar Belle Saison Brewer’s Yeast as the instructions stated. When adding the water, I just poured in the dry yeast and did not mix the carboy. I know some yeast packets suggest rehydration, but I’ve heard conflicting opinions on rehydrating before pitching. Does anyone have thoughts on this?

I am not going to touch the rehydrating question. Opinions are about 50/50 either way and some people are very “passionate” about their opinions.

For the temp, you have to consider that fermentation creates heat so you cannot consider the ambient temp as the fermentation temp. If you pitch at a warmer temp, the wort/beer will not cool off until fermentation is complete. It is better to start too cool and the fermentation take off as the wort warms up than to try and hope for a cool off. Personally I go for the lower end of the temperature range. You will see a major difference in the flavor when you get to the lower range of temps.

Very true. I’ve dumped the dry yeast in, I’ve rehydrated first, and I’ve used liquid yeast both with and without starters. Every single time, I ended up with beer.
There are pros and cons to each approach, but I’d think keeping the fermenter temperature in the strain’s happy zone throughout fermentation is more important than the yeast’s “initial” state.

As NanoBrew says, yeast has “body heat” so the temp inside the fermenter will be several degrees higher than the room temperature. If the room is 71, the beer could be very near the upper end of that 63-77.

The fermenter temp will have an impact on beer like a grill temp on barbecue. You want a high heat flame kiss for steak, but smokey low and slow for ribs. A given strain of Yeast will develop different flavors at the low end of the happy zone than they do at the high end.

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