Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy New Beer!

So after years of hemming and hawing, I finally decided to make some beer. I am a brewer! But this, like most things, is easier said than done. I’m sure my first batch will leave much to be desired, but at least it is a start. Some things to do next time: 1. Get a bigger kettle so the beer doesn’t boil over. Our little nine-quart stock pot was filled to the brim before we even added heat. Fortunately, we had plenty of room after we had about half a gallon of delicious wort boil over. 2. Wait for the beer to cool before adding yeast. After three hours, including two outside in the snow, the beer was still 79 degrees. I got impatient and pitched the yeast anyways. I’m not sure how this will work out. 3. Don’t go on vacation in the middle of the process. We left Saturday morning and had to transfer the beer into a glass fermenter a day early. I’m not sure how this will affect the beer but it can’t be good.
4. Tip the bucket. I wound up wasting a lot of beer because I didn’t do this when transferring my malty goodness to the glass fermenter. This also left an awful lot of air at the top of the fermenter. Not good. Please forgive me! 5. Clean-up. Sanitation is a big mystery to me. Since you can’t see bacteria that might damage the beer, you never really know if you got rid of them or not. We should bottle shortly after New Years. We’ll do another update then.


Joe said...

Hey Jon,

Great to hear about your first brewing experience! The first of many, I'm sure. I actually recently bottled batch 3 of homebrew- just wish I had thought of chronicling it all on a blog!

Anyway, hopefully I can relieve some anxiety about your first batch. First, wort boiling over sucks, I know too well. In addition to the horrible mess it makes, you feel like you've just wasted the precious lifeblood of your batch of beer! (I had spills with batches 1 and 3.) But, even losing a healthy quantity like you describe isn't a show stopper. Quick calculation: 2/9 qt lost = 22% of your wort concentrate lost. Assuming your batch was like the one I just made, that probably decreased your initial specific gravity by about 22% (worst case, anyway). This decreases your initial alcohol equivalent (all sugar converted) from 7% to about 5.4%. Assuming the yeast pick up the slack (and I bet they will), your final SG should be between 1-2% alc. equiv. Even with these pessimistic assumptions, this would mean your beer was still about 4.5% alc.! So hopefully that part will be okay.

As for temperature, I used to be highly concerned about that as well, but the most recent batch I made (which uses the same usual brewing yeast) had directions that simply said to ensure the wort was below 90 degrees F! I didn't quite believe even that, and waited until about 85 deg F. The downside of this is that the yeast will be much more active at the warmer temperature. So I then watched as the little ones worked their magic very quickly, finishing in under 48 hours. So ironically, a warm wort means you may need slightly less time in the primary fermenter. So no big deal that you transferred it a day early!

I will wrap up this longest comment ever with a comment about sanitizers... yeah, you basically just have to be thorough about it and hope it worked. But if you don't have any yet, definitely pick up some one-step sanitizer, much easier than attempting to use bleach.

I look forward to hearing how the first batch turned out! Have a great Christmas!


Luke Bohanan said...

Congrats Jon, and good luck on the beer! Cant wait to see how it turns out.
Most of your problems are not too urgent, but bacteria and oxygen are the big enemies. You can spray a layer of nitrogen over the top of fermenting beer before corking it to keep oxygen from getting in. For the bacteria, grab an industrial spray bottle, and put about a teaspoon of bleach per liter of water in it. Spray everything the beer might touch like you are Howard Hues. Dont wipe, just let it evaporate.

Russ said...

Great tips guys! Can't wait to get out of this hell-hole and brew my own.

Jack said...

Thanks for the comments. I'm certainly less worried than I was a few days ago. The next batch will be better!