Will I go Blind?
June 22, 2005 7:51 PM   Subscribe

I am in the process of home brewing my first batch of beer (pale ale). In all the excitement I completely mis-read the instructions.

I added a can of malt extract along with the corn sugar to 3 Liters of boiling water, stirred and then stopped boiling and added another 2.5 liters of water and cooled it to 75C where I added yeast and sealed the tub. Since then I've read that I should have boiled the malt/sugar mixture for an hour before cooling and sealing. Will this beer be crap, is it worth saving, is it dangerous?
posted by Wallzatcha to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If it ferments, it's not dangerous--that's the general rule I've heard. I think this batch is worth saving, as long as fermentation gets going. You might have a few wild yeasties in there. That can be good or bad, depending on which yeasties they are. I say let it run its course, but don't give up on brewing if it turns out to taste funny...
...he says as he finishes off a glass of home-brewed wine.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:03 PM on June 22, 2005

Nothing in beer can kill you. The worst that will ever happen is that you don't drink the beer.

Relax. Have a homebrew.
posted by achmorrison at 8:08 PM on June 22, 2005

I second MrMoonPie (and on preview, achmorrison) . It is definitely worth saving. Never dump a batch of beer until you've confirmed that it's bad. So let it ferment out and if it halfway resembles beer in a week or two, go ahead and proceed with bottling. If there is any doubt, bottle it anyway. Beer tends to get better with time.

How long did you actually do the initial boil for? The only reason to boil for a full hour is to extract bitterness from the hops. But from the sound of things you didn't add any hops. I'm assuming it was "hopped" malt extract.

No need to be too paranoid about topping off with tap water. Most people are fine doing this. You'll only get in trouble if your water supply is somehow bad. The way to find this out is to pretty much do what you just did. If the obsession I mean hobby gets you good, then you'll eventually do full wort boils and all that fun stuff.

Cheers! I'm gonna go have a homebrew.
posted by jclovebrew at 8:17 PM on June 22, 2005

The malt extract wasn't actually boiled at all. I just boiled water then added the extract and sugar and immediately removed it from heat.
I can't remember if it was 'hopped malt extract' or not, the can is long gone by now.
It is fermenting and the gas/air lock is definitely releasing the CO2 so it must be moving in the right direction. I'm anticipaing a very unique brew but looking forward to it.

What would you normally top the mix off with if not tap water? Would you normally try to boil all the water involved?
posted by Wallzatcha at 8:26 PM on June 22, 2005

I'm guessing the yeast won't fare well being scorched at 75C. I'd be wondering if the bacteria or wild yeasts will colonize the batch first. Might taste like ass or taste good. May not hurt to throw some warmed-up (30-40C) yeast in there right now.

Also what everyone said about the boil being important mostly for hop bitterness. The sugar's in there and that's the key thing.

Topping off the boil should be done ideally with bottled spring water or filtered water, though tap is ok (chlorine might not be so good). Yes, it's better to boil it all, but that requires big pots.
posted by rolypolyman at 9:17 PM on June 22, 2005

Inspiring thread; I got a home brew kit a couple Christmases ago and never got around to it. Maybe it's time to give it a go (yes, I've heard that the kits kind of suck, but ya gotta start somewhere, right?)
posted by Doohickie at 9:46 PM on June 22, 2005

Sounds like the "dump and stir" method so beloved of Australian kit brewers. The risk of infection from using canned extract is low. You really only need to boil if you're using unhopped extract and need to extract bitterness and flavour from your own hops. Pitching the yeast at 75oC was probably a bad idea - high teens is much better for an ale.

The worst that can happen is that you've killed the yeast, it won't ferment, and you'll be left with a fermenter full of sweet wort. There's nothing stopping you from tipping it all back into the boiler and giving it an hour (the yeast you pitched will just act as a nutrient), cooling it properly (ie quickly) and pitching more yeast.

If it was unhopped extract, it's not going to taste like beer if you don't add any hops. I recommend reboiling it as above and adding some Fuggles and Goldings for an English pale ale or some Cascade or Amarillo for an American pale ale.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:36 PM on June 22, 2005

I agree with those who say to RDWHAHB. But let's make sure it gets to that point.

I used to kit brew and never managed a boil; just getting it hot enough to get rid of the chlorine was enough (I'd also put in hops for extra flavour, so I liked to make sure it got to about 80C for a while).

Did you mean 75C, or 75F for the yeast? If you didn't boil, I guess you meant F, since 75C is pretty hot if you'd just added nearly 50% cold water. If the yeast is alive, you're probably okay - I pitch in the 70s F and have never had a problem. 75C would have killed the yeast, I'm pretty sure.

Another thing - liters, or gallons? A can of malt extract (if it's one of these 2kg cans), plus sugar, in 5 liters - that's a LOT of sugar. That's about a 5 gallon recipe. If you've got that much sugar in 5 liters, you'll have problems with the ferment since the alcohol will kill the yeast before it's fermented out. You might want to add more boiled, cooled water to the primary.

I don't think I'd reboil for hops at this point. It was a Pale Ale kit, right? So, you're probably already hopped. You've already made some alcohol that you will lose if you reboil, and you've got wort full of yeast which will die and probably do all kind of nastiness in the fermenter. Maybe make a hop tea (say, 2oz hops in a litre of water?), boil for 15 mins and add that, after it cools, to the fermenter. That can be part of the water noted above.

It's a good idea to keep a brewing log so you can go back over what you did the last time, especially if you get an off batch. It forces you to pay attention to what you're doing.
You will pay attention next time, won't you?
posted by sagwalla at 1:09 AM on June 23, 2005

Maybe make a hop tea (say, 2oz hops in a litre of water?), boil for 15 mins and add that, after it cools, to the fermenter.

Adding hops this way and in that proportion is a pretty good idea, but I would boil the hops with a little malt extract or corn sugar (1/4 - 1/2 pound). I've boiled hops by themselves before and sometimes got a grassy flavor out of them.

But yeah, relax, don't worry, etc.
posted by cog_nate at 6:38 AM on June 23, 2005

My mistake, it was 75F, not C...quite a bit of difference there. The yeast is active, so I think things are progressing somewhere near normal.
My initial concern was that by not boiling the water/sugar/malt mixture I had ruined the flavor.
Sounds like the can of ready malt extract may be ok this time. I thought the can of malt seemed like such a great idea for my first brew, so simple....my problem came from the very abbreviated instructions on the can. I should have followed the book.
Thanks for the advice. I'm looking forward to a much tastier second effort.

Does anyone have favorite home-brew websites?
posted by Wallzatcha at 7:56 AM on June 23, 2005

No favorite websites, but The Complete Joy of Homebrewing is the best $15 you'll ever invest in this hobby. Read it while having a homebrew.
posted by achmorrison at 8:40 AM on June 23, 2005

The boil is for hop utilization. Providing your extract is hopped, it might be somewhat okay, save the extra corn sugar that will not attenuate totally. However, it's probably not as hopped as you'd like and you'll end up with some very sweet beer.

Spend some time at howtobrew.com, a good and comprehensive site.

Best of luck.
posted by sled at 8:51 AM on June 23, 2005

Another good site is the homebrew forum on BeerAdvocate.com.
posted by jclovebrew at 9:41 AM on June 23, 2005

Also try reading forum.northernbrewer.com
posted by sled at 1:38 PM on June 24, 2005

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