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Total noob dummy

hello all!!

I am completely new to the world of home brewing, but am so excited to get started. After begging and begging and begging, my fiancee finally got me one for christmas along with an ingredient kit for a Scottish Ale. So i didnt waste any time getting started. I researched, read all the instructions in the kit and the booklet that came with it as well. I went to unpack the kit and BAM! noticed my hydrometer was broken during shipping. Ok. I see in the brewing instructions that it is highly recommended but not required, so i say what the hay, lets do it (first noob mistake). I follow all the instruction to a T and have a wonderful smelling wort by the time its ready for an ice bath. I put the wort in the ice bath, put my digital thermometer in and wait for it to reach the proper temp…and wait…and wait. after about 45 min my thermometer still reads 109, so i wait about another 15 min. Still reads 109. By this time i am thinking something is up so I wash my hands real well and stick my pinky in to check…its cold as hell (second noob mistake). So I decide to improvise and I know I have to add more water to make it 5 gallons, so I add hot water in the hopes in brings it up to about 70 deg, which was the target temp. I have to estimate because my thermometer is clearly broken, so I think its close and I pitch my yeast. It looked like it was activating to me so I put in my primary fermentor and hope for the best. Lo and behold after 12 hours I get bubbles!! I am happy.
Here is where my problem comes in to play. I see in the instructions that it recommends a secondary fermentation so after about 5 days, I re rack to the carboy. I put it back in my closet, where the temp on the fermometer was a steady 64 deg, and wait. No bubbles. Another day, no bubbles. I shake it around to add some oxygen to it, it is pretty foamy, and wait…no bubbles. So I am thinking I should go pick up a packet of yeast and pitch it again?? or should I wait? The liquid in the carboy is somewhat cloudy, and there are chunks of stuff floating on top but it doesnt look like any signs of fermentation. So I come to you guys. Help a noob and I wont bother too much afterwards! I did a search for the topic but results varied, thats why I posted. What do you think, re-pitch the yeast or wait??

:?

also, is a secondary fermentor really necessary??? or is it dependant on the type of beer?

Secondary to me for the most part is a waste of time. Secondary in only 5 days is way too fast in my opinion you should wait atleast two weeks. You remove allot of the yeast when you do that the good thing is you did it so early in fermentation that allot of the yeast was most likely still in suspension. Pitching yeast at a colder temperature is usually ok.
Did you have your full volume before you added the hot water? If so you shouldnt of added anything. I wouldn’t add hot water next time just pitch your yeast im sure you will be fine.
Also if you’re fermenting in buckets they are notorious for not sealing around the lid which is the reason for no bubbles in the airlock.

Sounds like beer to me! Secondary is for clearing, aging, etc, so you should’t expect to see signs of fermentation. You may have done some damage when you shook it, because you don’t want oxidation in the secondary. Opinions vary, but secondary isn’t really necessary unless you’re adding fruit, dry hopping, or want to bulk age off the yeast.

First of all, welcome to the forums. We were all at the n00b stage once but you definitely are not a dummy. You will make beer and given some time and practice, better beer than you can buy.

First, as you have found, hydrometers are pretty fragile. That said, I just broke my very first hydrometer, the original I got with my starter kit from 6+ years ago. You should have some way to measure your gravity, whether a hydrometer or refractometer. The latter are nice as they let you use just a few drops of wort to get a reading. I’ve seen them on sale for as low as $25. Check out homebrewfinds.com for some deals.

Ideally, you want your wort to be below 70 when pitching (I like the low 60’s). A good thermometer is essential. I like the Thermoworks quick read one (about $20). A clean pinky is not the best thermometer but not likely to infect your wort (unless your nails are really long and harboring all kinds of funk). A good rule of thumb is that anything that touches the wort below 160F should be sanitized (a spray bottle of Star San is quite handy). If you started to see activity, good, sounds like your temps were below the point of killing the yeast outright. Try to keep your beer in the low to mid 60’s to ensure you don’t get too high in temp when at high krausen (the peak of fermentation). I have personally seen a rise of 7-10 degrees just from the fermentation activity. Too high of temperature (generally above the low 70’s) may give you some off flavors. As far as secondary, I skip it. I haven’t done one in many years. Give your beer 3-4 weeks in primary then bottle it. In some cases, you may want to secondary such as bulk aging big beers, adding fruit, oak, etc. I personally think it’s just more work and not worth the risk of possible contamination. If you must transfer to another carboy, I’d wait at least 10 days. Some yeast is done after 3-5 days but even when it looks like it’s done, the yeast are continuing to ferment and clean up any by-products of fermentation. There is no need to shake the carboy, a gentle swirl to get the yeast back into suspension is fine. Adding oxygen to the beer post-fermentation can result in stale flavors (think wet cardboard) and is not desirable.

In summary, I’m sure you made beer and I’m sure you’ll drink it. Get another batch going ASAP and post as many questions here as you need. We’ve all been there and are more than happy to help the new guy. Cheers!! :cheers:

man, you guys are quick to help and thats much appreciated. looks I found a new hobby!! So from what I am gathering from you guys is that I do not need to pitch the yeast again and that I should let it sit? Or is this batch ruined?? I will attach a pic of what it looks like now. One shows the fermometer and the temp, which hasnt changed during the process. The other I was trying to use the flashlight to show what the brew looks like and if its normal.

Let me address your concerns (as I understand them below) one at a time:

[quote=“chmuraman”]hello all!!

  1. I follow all the instruction to a T and have a wonderful smelling wort by the time its ready for an ice bath. I put the wort in the ice bath, put my digital thermometer in and wait for it to reach the proper temp…and wait…and wait. after about 45 min my thermometer still reads 109, so i wait about another 15 min. Still reads 109. By this time i am thinking something is up so I wash my hands real well and stick my pinky in to check…its cold as hell (second noob mistake).

  2. So I decide to improvise and I know I have to add more water to make it 5 gallons, so I add hot water in the hopes in brings it up to about 70 deg, which was the target temp. I have to estimate because my thermometer is clearly broken, so I think its close and I pitch my yeast. It looked like it was activating to me so I put in my primary fermentor and hope for the best. Lo and behold after 12 hours I get bubbles!! I am happy.

  3. Here is where my problem comes in to play. I see in the instructions that it recommends a secondary fermentation so after about 5 days, I re rack to the carboy. I put it back in my closet, where the temp on the fermometer was a steady 64 deg, and wait.

  4. No bubbles. Another day, no bubbles. I shake it around to add some oxygen to it, it is pretty foamy, and wait…no bubbles.

  5. So I am thinking I should go pick up a packet of yeast and pitch it again?? or should I wait? The liquid in the carboy is somewhat cloudy, and there are chunks of stuff floating on top but it doesnt look like any signs of fermentation.

  6. So I come to you guys. Help a noob and I wont bother too much afterwards! I did a search for the topic but results varied, thats why I posted. What do you think, re-pitch the yeast or wait??

:? [/quote]

1. I follow all the instruction to a T and have a wonderful smelling wort by the time its ready for an ice bath. I put the wort in the ice bath, put my digital thermometer in and wait for it to reach the proper temp…and wait…and wait. after about 45 min my thermometer still reads 109, so i wait about another 15 min. Still reads 109. By this time i am thinking something is up so I wash my hands real well and stick my pinky in to check…its cold as hell (second noob mistake).

Following the instructions to a T is a good thing. You sanitized the digital thermometer first, right? Rule 1: nothing touches the boiled wort unless it’s been sanitized. Dipping your pinky in the wort is also not a good idea (see rule #1) but at least you washed your fingers first.

[color=#FF0000]2. So I decide to improvise and I know I have to add more water to make it 5 gallons, so I add hot water in the hopes in brings it up to about 70 deg, which was the target temp. I have to estimate because my thermometer is clearly broken, so I think its close and I pitch my yeast. It looked like it was activating to me so I put in my primary fermentor and hope for the best. Lo and behold after 12 hours I get bubbles!! I am happy.
[/color]

As others suggested, you didn’t need to had hot water and pitching in to cold wort is ok. I recommend adding distilled water in the future. It is sanitized and it adds no additional elements or chemicals to your wort. In fact, best to chill a couple of gallons as wort being too cold before pitching is not usually a problem, but rather, it being too warm. Also, since you added water to make the total 5 gallons it must have been to your primary fermentor, right? And it had a fermometer right? That should have given you a realistic idea of the temperature of your wort. If the fermometer wasn’t at a level to read the wort temperature, prior to adding the water to reach 5 gallons, lower it so that it will pick up the temperature of your concentrated wort. Then you won’t have to guess and “add hot water”. Cliff notes of your instructions should have been (in order): 1. chill wort. 2, add to primary fermentor (with fermometer on the side so you can actually read the temperature of the wort). 3. add water to raise level to 5 gallons. 4. read temperature of the 5-gallons now in your fermometer, 5. pitch yeast if the wort is in the appropriate range. 6. shake the bejesus out of the fermenter to add oxygen. 7. add bubbler. 8. and leave it alone. 9. check SG after bubbling has stopped. If reached FG, transfer to secondary. If not, go to 8.

[color=#FF0000]3. Here is where my problem comes in to play. I see in the instructions that it recommends a secondary fermentation so after about 5 days, I re rack to the carboy. I put it back in my closet, where the temp on the fermometer was a steady 64 deg, and wait.
[/color]

…“steady 64deg”…this suggest a good fermentation. However, without a means to know whether the primary was actually completed you probably did rack it too fast…racking after 5-days was not in your instructions so maybe “to a T” is not accurate. :wink: IME, you can rack to secondary for most ales after about 2 weeks, not 5 days. In 7+ years, I’ve never had an ale take more than 2-3 weeks to completely ferment out. Lagers, yes, but not ales. so, if you can be patient and you don’t mind waiting 3 weeks, you don’t need a hydromenter or refractometer to determine if your beer is finished. But it is a very good idea to get one or the other and actually check it rather than racking or bottling.

4. No bubbles. Another day, no bubbles. I shake it around to add some oxygen to it, it is pretty foamy, and wait…no bubbles.

Shaking the secondary was also not in your instructions…again, not to a “T”. :wink:
There will be no bubbles unless you add more sugar. Shaking and adding oxygen at this point is not good. In the future, if you have a stalled fermentation, you can add more yeast and “swirl” not shake the fermenter. That gets the yeast in solution but does not add enough oxygen to do damage.

[color=#FF0000]5. So I am thinking I should go pick up a packet of yeast and pitch it again?? or should I wait? The liquid in the carboy is somewhat cloudy, and there are chunks of stuff floating on top but it doesnt look like any signs of fermentation.
[/color]

Buy a hydrometer and check the SG BEFORE you pitch more yeast. The cloudiness and chunks are most likely trub in suspension. It will settle out. AFTER you verify it’s current SG then you can add more yeast.

[color=#FF0000]6. So I come to you guys. Help a noob and I wont bother too much afterwards! I did a search for the topic but results varied, thats why I posted. What do you think, re-pitch the yeast or wait??
[/color]

You have made the same mistakes that many of us have made. The key is to not repeat them and by posting here, you’ve come a long way to not repeating your mistakes. Mostly, fear not. You’ve made beer. This batch will not be your best, but it will be beer. Congratulations.

:cheers:

thank you for the input!! I have TWO hydrometers and a thermometer in the mail as we speak, as well as another ingredient kit. I will let this one finish out and see what it looks/smells/tastes like before bottling. If I have to toss it, so be it. I will learn and brew again!! Thank you so much everyone!

:cheers:

[quote=“chmuraman”]thank you for the input!! I have TWO hydrometers and a thermometer in the mail as we speak, as well as another ingredient kit. I will let this one finish out and see what it looks/smells/tastes like before bottling. If I have to toss it, so be it. I will learn and brew again!! Thank you so much everyone!

:cheers: [/quote]

You will not need to toss it unless it is infected. Plan on bottling and drinking it. Even if “weak”, it will still be beer!

cheers.

[quote=“StormyBrew”][quote=“chmuraman”]thank you for the input!! I have TWO hydrometers and a thermometer in the mail as we speak, as well as another ingredient kit. I will let this one finish out and see what it looks/smells/tastes like before bottling. If I have to toss it, so be it. I will learn and brew again!! Thank you so much everyone!

:cheers: [/quote]

You will not need to toss it unless it is infected. Plan on bottling and drinking it. Even if “weak”, it will still be beer!

cheers.[/quote]

Agreed and even if you do see infections (highly unlikely) you can rack the beer from under the infection, bottle, carb, and drink quickly! I had one infection (out of 90+ batches) and it was still drinkable. Infections take months to sour the beer. Get the beer carbed then cold as quickly as possible and drink as quickly as possible and it’s no problem.

Even if it’s horrible, drink every last bit while repeating in your head “I’ll brew better next time”.

will do guys. thank you for all the feedback. I have two ingredient kits coming in the mail so I will definitely improve the process!

UPDATE!! ok, so I got my hydrometer in the mail today and I decided I wanted to check my batch and see where it was at. I sprayed everything with star san and then took a sample (found out I need a big turkey baster) floated the hydrometer and I got a reading of 1.012…I look at the instructions and they state the FG should be 1.010-1.014. Soooooooo what exactly does this mean? As per instructions, it shouldnt be ready for bottling until the 14th (2 weeks in the secondary). Just curious, should I check it in a few more days and see if the gravity has changed? Let it be? Im not quite sure whats happening.

You’ve made beer. Let it sit, wont hurt a thing and gives your yeast time to clean things up. Personally I wait at least 3 weeks before bottling. If you can’t wait that long give it at least two.

My 2 cents worth is be patient and if you wait a day or so take another reading and if it stays the same it’s probably done fermenting. I would still wait till the 2 wks are up to bottle. Keep notes on your process so you can reference everything you’ve done right to the end with tasting notes. That way you will have an account to reference for the future.

thanks again, I will wait. I noticed that it was a little cloudy in my test tube when I pulled a sample so hopefully, like you said, the yeast will clean it up some. I will repost on the 14th!!

Stop following the recipe to a “T” in regards to time to bottle. Let the hydrometer/beer tell you when its done NOT a calendar.

UPDATE!! Ok, so I bottled one week ago today and decided to try one this afternoon to see how the flavor/carbonation was going. HOLY WOW!!! I am thoroughly impressed!! the flavors are pretty good. Nice and malty, not too hoppy. The clarity is pretty decent too. There is a bit more of a bitterness than i like, but I am assuming that could be that it still needs another week or two to condition in the bottles too. Or my temp fiasco during the brewing process. Either way, it poured real nice with a full frothy head and looks beautiful!! (im a first timer, so obviously im biased). What do you guys think?? Lokk pretty good to you?

It looks great, though to get that good a head and carbonation after only one week could mean it will overcarbonate with more time. But the clarity argues against that; you are probably fine.

Yes, the bitterness will mellow out with time, but we’re talking weeks and months here, not days.

I can’t tell from here… send me a bottle! Welcome to your new obsession! :cheers:

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