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First-timer fail?


Sep 29, 2014
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So I just started brewing again after maybe 15 years and decided, as you do, that it would be a good idea to jump straight into partial mash (my previous efforts were purely full kit paint-by-numbers extract brews). I'll get to the blow-by-blow but the short story is that after almost instantly exploding into active fermentation the brew stopped bubbling after less than 24 hours.

The detail...

1.5lb pale malt and 6.4oz amber malt. I don't have a mill so crushed them in a bag with a wine bottle. Steeped them in a mesh bag at 152 (67C) in 2.25q (2.1L) for 45 minutes then rinsed with 1qt (1L) at 170 (77C). I then added this "tea" to 3.5gal (13L) of very hot water and stirred in 4lb (1.8kg) of dried malt extract then brought to the boil. So far so good. I then boiled for 60 minutes adding Warrior and Simcoe hops until the 35 minute mark and then some Cascade. I was supposed to add Irish Moss toward the end but forgot until later on. With 15 minutes left I cut the heat and added a can of light liquid malt extract. Then resumed boil for 15 minutes.

After the boil I chucked the pot in ice water until it dropped to around 100 (40C) at which point I remembered the Irish Moss and chucked it in anyway. What the hell, right?!? I then poured it into the plastic fermenter, topped with bottled water up to 5gal (19L), added a packet of dry yeast and left it (still very warm). So  went to bed, woke up 8 hours later and it was bubbling like crazy. The thermometer on the side of the container wasn't working but the brew was warm slightly to the touch. When I got home from work the bubbling had stopped all together. I took a hydrometer reading and if I'm reading it correctly it's at 1.030, significantly lower than the OG of 1.064 I was hoping for (the reading sits at 30 which I assume to be 1.030 but the little band inside the hydrometer says that's the upper end of "Beer Start").

So that's it guys and gals. Have I successfully brewed soap poison or is there a chance of salvation?

Your suggestions on what to do at this point (even if that means throw it out and start again) are appreciated.

Suggestion: DO NOT throw it out.

It sounds like you fermented above the recommended temperature range. That's probably not going to make the best beer, but it will be beer, and you'll probably enjoy it.

It sounds like you brewed a kit, which typically means very poor instructions. Your process sounds fine until you pulled the pot out of the ice bath at 100F. Even with cold top-up water your wort was probably a little warm when you pitched the yeast. I prefer to chill my wort to about five degrees F below the bottom of the yeast manufacturer's specified temperature range before pitching rehydrated dry yeast. Let the beer rise to the low end of the specified temp range (others will say to the middle or even the upper end of the range) and hold it there at least three or four days before letting it rise to the middle or top of the temp range; I prefer to hold it until the specific gravity is unchanged over three days plus one week.

I expected you to say the gravity was at 1.010, which would indicate fermentation was finished. Since there is still some sugar in there, you can slowly lower the temp to the middle of the recommended temp range by putting the fermenter into a "swamp cooler" (google it or search for it on this forum).

I recently  A friend recently cleaned out his ferm fridge and forgot to plug it back in when he put a batch of beer in. It got so hot the Fermometer didn't register. The beer turned out drinkable - not great, but better than Bud.

A good way to get some confidence in working with a hydrometer is to fill it with distilled water at whatever temperature it's calibrated for (it will be printed on the paper inside the tube in tiny print). It sould read very close to 1.000. Any variation from 1.000 is an error you can use to correct subsequent readings for beer and wort.
At that temperature there's a good chance the brew will have a hint of banana, but otherwise should be drinkable.
Thanks for the replies! I will look at the hydrometer and see what the calibration is and I will look into a swamp cooler too. I live in Western Australia so it gets very hot in summer and I will need a way to cool the brews. I will also update this thread as I progress in case any other noobs find it helpful down the line.
I didn't use a kit per se, I just found a recipe that looked good and bought the ingredients for the partial mash option. I did use the malt extract can though.

One week after brew day.
I stabilised temperature at 22C (71.6F) for the week and there remains a little bit of fermentation activity, about one bubble every 5 minutes or so.
I took another hydrometer reading today and there has been negligible change since day 1 - just below 1.030.
Keen for any advice!
You said "hydrometer", but your reading sounds like what I would expect from a refractometer.

With a starting gravity of 1.064, if you're using a refractometer, a final reading of 1.030 (7.8 Brix) corrects to 1.011. A final gravity of 1.011 sounds about right.

The background is: a refractometer measures the refractive index of a solution. The refractive index of water increases when you dissolve sugar in it. When the yeast change some of the sugar to alcohol, the alcohol changes the refractive index differently. BeerSmith has a refractometer tool to make the correction for you.

If you're using a hydrometer, please disregard all of the above.
Thanks durrettd.

I looked it up and I am for sure using a hydrometer (that refractometer looks like something from Doctor Who https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonic_screwdriver). The reading of 1.064 I mentioned in the original post was what the recipe said my OG should be but unfortunately my first reading was not until 24 hours after pitching the yeast when the bubbling had died off to about once every minute or so – that reading was 1.030. Yesterday I took another reading and it was 1.030 near as damn is to swearing. In short there was a burst of fermentation activity in the first 24 hours but very little over the past week and the hydrometer reading has stayed stagnant for the last 7 days (I tested the hydrometer in pure water and it read 1.000 so I know it’s pretty accurate).

I’m wondering if, based on the initial feedback that my pitching temp was too high but the brew was salvageable, this new information re Gravity reconciles to that (ie, should I still look at bottling in another few days or have I killed it)?

Thanks in advance guys. I'm really appreciating this help.
Hydrometer readings have to be corrected for temperature, too.  Your hydrometer should have come with a temperature correction chart.  Make sure you take the temperature of your sample in to consideration and correct the reading appropriately.  Rack it off into a secondary and the yeast may kick into gear again and finish of the fermentation.  Sometimes the light aeration of racking helps.

If you are using BeerSmith, you can use the hydrometer adjust tool under tools on the tool bar.

I say if your FG reading has not changed in 7 days then bottle it, let it bottle condition for 4 weeks then put several in the fridge for 3 days then try one.
Thanks again guys. The hydrometer is second hand and has no paper so I'm flying blind on that score.

The good news is that I cracked one of the beers open last night and while not fantastic it is drinkable and (I think) not a bad first attempt.

The second batch is ready for bottling now (some finishing hops have been sitting in there for 2 weeks contact) and I'm buying ingredients for an amber ale to start this weekend.

Ah, the joys and challenges of brewing! Your detailed account reminds me of the nuances of paint by numbers – every step seems straightforward, but the little details can make all the difference in the final outcome. It sounds like you took on a complex brew with the partial mash, and while there were a few hiccups along the way (like the missed Irish Moss), it's all part of the learning process.

Your OG to FG drop is quite significant, which may indicate incomplete fermentation or other issues. While the brew's fate isn't set in stone yet, there's always a chance to tweak, learn, and improve.

A few things to consider:

Temperature: Ensure the fermentation temperature is consistent and within the range recommended for the yeast strain you used.

Yeast Health: Check the viability of your yeast. Using fresh, healthy yeast can make a big difference.

Aeration: Did you aerate the wort before pitching the yeast? Oxygen is essential for yeast health during the early stages of fermentation.

Racking: Consider racking the beer to a secondary fermenter to help with clarity and possibly restart fermentation.

Flavor & Aroma: Always remember that even if the beer doesn't hit the target numbers, it might still be tasty. Sometimes the best beers are happy accidents!

Given the effort and ingredients involved, I'd say give it a bit more time and see if the fermentation picks up again. If not, you've gained valuable experience for the next brew. Cheers to the journey of brewing and learning!
If you are using BeerSmith, you can use the hydrometer adjust tool under tools on the tool bar. crypto poker

I say if your FG reading has not changed in 7 days then bottle it, let it bottle condition for 4 weeks then put several in the fridge for 3 days then try one. Viberate
Thanks for the tip! Using the hydrometer adjust tool in BeerSmith sounds like a handy feature for managing gravity readings.