Homebrew gone wrong?
December 13, 2010 10:54 AM   Subscribe

So yesterday I brewed a batch of beer and I think I've done a few things wrong. I know it's hard to completely screw up beer, but I wonder if what I've done (or not done) is a problem, and how I can correct if necessary.

I can't actually consume large volumes of beer and my kitchen is small, so it's a ridiculously small amount of beer.

It’s kind of based on the Blood Orange Hefe in Extreme Brewing by Sam Calagione, but then I sort of went off on my own tangent.

1. Brew-in-a-bag technique - I struck the mash at 160 degrees in 2 gallons of water and then did a single temperature infusion at 152 for an hour. I did not sparge.

- 2 lbs of german pilsner malt
- 2 lbs of wheat malt
- 0.50 lbs of honey malt

2. 60 minute boil - 0.2 oz of Amarillo added at the start, at 45 minutes, at 59 minutes, and then I did a knockout hopping while I was chilling the wort. As I boiled I was getting pretty high evaporation rates and thus kept replenishing with boiling water from my tea kettle, attempting to keep the total volume at 1.5 gallons.

3. At the 59 minute mark I added an infusion of citrus peel, coriander, a few citrus leaves, and segmented citrus fruit (1 blood orange, 1 satsuma, 1 tangerine, 1 navel orange, 1 lemon - there was absolutely no pith anywhere in this mix).

4. I chilled the wort down to 80 degrees in about 20 minutes and got an excellent cold break. Poured the wort through a strainer into my fermenter (a 2 gallon bucket) where the nylon bag with the citrus bits that I had used to make the infusion was waiting.

5. The finished volume of wort was about 1.5 gallons. I pitched 2.5 grams of dry yeast in (Fermentis Safbrew WB-06), covered my bucket, and put on my airlock at 8pm last night. My house temps stay about 60-65.

Possible problems:

- I didn't aerate the wort before or after pitching (other than pouring from the kettle into the fermenter). The Internets says that you do not need to aerate dry yeast if you're just sprinkling on top.
- I didn't rehydrate the yeast. Fermentis says that sprinkling is fine, but the instructions mention stirring it in to aerate.
- I didn't measure the original gravity. Because I am an idiot.
- I seriously underpitched. Using the calculator at BeerTools the predicted OG is 1.077 and the suggested pitch rate for that gravity at Mr. Malty is 4 ounces.
- Since it's high gravity, I know the lag time might be pretty long. As of this morning I'm not seeing any bubbles in my airlock, but a krausen is forming so I know SOMETHING is happening.

So. Should I…?

- Take a gravity reading when I get home tonight?
- Pitch in another 2 grams of yeast? Hydrate it this time?
- Aerate the wort when I pitch in?
- Lower the temp? I've got a closet in my house that stays around 55.
- Do a secondary when primary fermentation is done?
- Relax and have a homebrew?
posted by elsietheeel to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: suggested pitch rate for that gravity at Mr. Malty is 4 ounces.

I believe you mean "4 grams". 4 ounces would be a serious overpitch.

I would seriously relax and have a homebrew. After about 2 years into brewing, I pretty much stopped taking gravity readings as meticulously as I had in the past, mainly because I knew that beer is beer, and while it may not always come out perfect, I made it from scratch and hence it will be awesome.

Just leave it go for a while. Even if your yeast was not rehydrated, as long as it's viable, you should be fine. If the OG is really 1.077 and you take a gravity reading after a week and it's not much further down from that, then you might start worrying.
posted by King Bee at 11:00 AM on December 13, 2010

Best answer: Oh, and if you do decide to pitch more yeast in there, DO NOT aerate the wort. The time for that has passed, as you have already seen krausen form.
posted by King Bee at 11:01 AM on December 13, 2010

Response by poster: Gah. Yes, I meant 4 grams. And I previewed the damn question four times before I posted too.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:02 AM on December 13, 2010

Best answer: - Relax and have a homebrew?

WB-06 is a wheat yeast, it likes slightly warmer temperatures, 65-70F. About the worst I've had when not rehydrating the yeast is a longer lag time, 24-48 hours instead of the 12 hours when I use liquid yeast. You are getting a krausen, leave it alone, have a homebrew.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:06 AM on December 13, 2010

Best answer: krausen and no bubbles? are you sure the lid/stopper is tight?

as for the rest I would just sit back, relax and wait. if you got a good cold break I don't see a need for racking to a secondary. unless you value a bit more clarity.
posted by patrad at 11:06 AM on December 13, 2010

Response by poster: It's as tight as I'm going to get on a bucket. If I push down on the bucket lid the water in the airlock moves, so it seems like there's a decent seal there. Maybe it will be bubbling when I get home.

I will leave it where it is in the 65 degree central house, I won't bother with a secondary since it's a wheat anyway, and the next time I brew I will take measurements and yet chill the hell out.

And as much as I love it when questions are answered quick and easy like, it's also disappointing cos it means no more beer talk.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:20 AM on December 13, 2010

Best answer: Using the calculator at BeerTools the predicted OG is 1.077

1.077 really isn't that gigantic, and while I don't know what the efficiency is on BeerTools (75%? 65%?) I'd be willing to bet you didn't hit that mark. You probably would have benefited from rehydrating the yeast but if you're seeing krausen you're in decent shape. If anything I'd say -- like Mister Fabulous does -- to bring the temp up a bit if you can.

I agree w/King Bee, too; don't aerate at this point. You probably got enough oxygen in when you poured the wort through the strainer.

Take a measurement in a week or so. If the gravity is still high -- above 1.050, I'd say -- then I'd try rousing the yeast.
posted by cog_nate at 11:25 AM on December 13, 2010

Best answer: I've screwed up two beers - the first was when I didn't sterilize and the second was when I didn't let it ferment for long enough (it was an incredibly heavy Scotch Ale) and it ended up incredibly sweet, massively carbonated, and completely undrinkable. I have made every other mistake it is possible to make on other batches and the beer has ranged from okay, but not great, to OMG awesome (no joke. My Cherry Stout is the stuff of legend).

Yeast is actually incredibly strong stuff. It can handle a range of temperatures and conditions and usually doesn't blink (about the only thing that really upsets it is big changes in temperatures, but don't sweat it if the yeast says that it likes X degrees but you have it at Y. It will be fine). Things might more a little slower at the beginning, but you should be fine. Check the airlock, but wait a couple more days before you write it off.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:28 AM on December 13, 2010

Best answer: Yeah, give it time. I started a batch of wine Saturday, and in the cold back room where it's sitting, it didn't start bubbling until this morning. Back in my beer-making days, I didn't aerate, didn't hydrate, didn't measure gravity, and things were fine (as long as I paid attention to sanitation).
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:32 AM on December 13, 2010

Best answer: Nthing give it time, from experience. Wait it out another 24-48 hours before you start to panic. The less robust start puts you at risk for more off flavors, but no bubbles at this stage doesn't mean your yeast is dead.
posted by deludingmyself at 11:36 AM on December 13, 2010

Best answer: You probably got enough oxygen into the wort but as others have mentioned, you shouldn't try aerating it at this point. I agree with what cog_nate suggests about possibly rousing the yeast if the gravity doesn't fall.

As a side note, I'm curious as to why you don't measure the O.G. and rely on estimation. I always measure even though I'm an extract (w/adjuncts) brewer. If nothing else it would give you more confidence in your mash technique.
posted by tommasz at 11:38 AM on December 13, 2010

Response by poster: ADHD. I completely spaced out and when I checked it this morning I remembered all the things I should have done.

I was probably concentrating so much on sanitation that I ran out of brain space.

Do you reckon I should check the gravity tonight just to have some sort of base point or is the risk of disturbing things/introducing evil not worth it?
posted by elsietheeel at 11:45 AM on December 13, 2010

Best answer: RHAH....if everything is sterile you'll almost certainly end up with beer. relax and enjoy
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:57 AM on December 13, 2010

Best answer: I would also recommend relaxing, not worrying, and having a homebrew.

I would also recommend the HomeBrewTalk forums as a great place to learn a ton about homebrewing beer.
posted by Aizkolari at 12:08 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm on there with the same username, btw.
posted by Aizkolari at 12:09 PM on December 13, 2010

Response by poster: I read HomeBrewTalk a lot, but it's blocked from work.

Also I find specialized forums to be intimidating as a noob. Once I have more experience brewing then I'll probably actively participate over there.
posted by elsietheeel at 12:19 PM on December 13, 2010

Best answer: Relax, don't worry, have a homebrew.

Also, if you're brewing 1 gallon batches, consider getting a few gallon glass jugs for fermentation. It'll be easier to keep clean and if you split it into two sperate jugs, you can experiment with different yeasts and see the results.

I was thinking about brewing this weekend and you've settled it for me.

Derail: Is there a MeFi homebrewers guild established?
posted by JimmyJames at 12:47 PM on December 13, 2010

Response by poster: I've actually got a 3 gallon glass carboy on my x-mas list. The 1.5 gallon amount is about a gallon less than I'd like.

When I got home the airlock was slowly, but surely, bubbling. I am now relaxing and having a brew.

Thank you everyone for your help! I'll be back next week when the porter I'm brewing next week inevitably goes tits up. :P
posted by elsietheeel at 5:44 PM on December 13, 2010

Response by poster: And the airlock stopped bubbling, so I took a peek through the hole and the krausen had already fallen. Gravity reading says 1.019; I'm going to check again in a day or two. I was expecting a fast ferment on this, but damn.

The sample tasted pretty awesome for green beer, so I poured it into a bottle of Great White. It tastes like a funky cross of Great White and Tangerine Wheat - which was pretty much what I was going for. Hooray beer!
posted by elsietheeel at 7:29 PM on December 14, 2010

Response by poster: I'm drinking it now. It's awesome! I can now officially relax and have a homebrew. Thanks, Ask.MeFi!
posted by elsietheeel at 6:42 PM on December 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

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