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Home brewing virgin seeks advice...

Discussion in 'Hobbies' started by MeldrewsMate, 17 Jul 2021.

  1. MeldrewsMate

    MeldrewsMate

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    I've just had a go at beer-making, and want to make sure I'm following the instructions properly.
    The first brew was a bitter kit, the fermenter left to its own devices in the lounge, with room temperatures fluctuating between 16C and 20C. After transferring to a pressure barrel on day 9 (instructions suggested 5 days, but it was still bubbling regularly until day 9) and leaving for a further 10 days the result was not unpleasant, even palatable to visitors. It did, however, lose its sparkle for the last 20 pints; not having any CO2 injection probably contributed to that.

    Moving on to brew number two, a 40 pint dark fruits cider kit (still in progress). I have made a fermenter heater from a slab of Celotex, a 25W heater, a SonOff controller, and a 600 x 600 floor tile. I procurred an insertion thermostat and a hydrometer to try to reduce the variables in my process.
    The instructions said to add the yeast sachet contents, which I did once the fermenter was at 22C. The OG was 1038. It then seems to go very well, the heated tile holding the fermenter to between 20C and 23C, measured at the tile/bucket interface using a thermistor. After 5, 6, and 7 days the bubble rate had not subsided, so I stuck the hydrometer into the brew and read 1010 SG. The next day there was no change to the SG or the bubble rate, so I assumed that the criteria 'do not bottle until the bubbles stop OR the SG is steady and below 1008 had been met, the error being down to the hydrometer's accuracy.
    Proceeding with caution I have bottled this cider in 1 litre glass bottles with flip-top lids and half the instructed quantity of sugar. They are now in a cool(er) place, though the weather has warmed considerably this weekend.

    Brew three is now in the fermenter. I couldn't get the temperature below 25C last night, and added the yeast anyway. The OG measured just 1030, so I added a further 200g of granulated sugar to the initial 1kg, but made no further SG measurement. It is currently bubbling away furiously on day 2...

    My questions are as follows:
    1. Is it OK to measure the SG directly within the fermenter, rather than taking a sample to a sample jar and then disposing of (wasting!) it? I am thinking of the risks of introducing unwanted bacteria on each measurement.
    2. Should the measurement equipment be sterilised on each use? Would simply washing and rinsing be sufficient?
    3. Should my hydrometer read 1.000 in fresh cold water, and is that enough to 'calibrate it', ie will it have the same error all the way up its scale (if it reads 1.002 in cold water, should it read 1.042 in a fresh brew at 1.040?).
    4. Will my sterilising solution (Bruclens from Wilco) still work to sterilise my bottles (say 150ml in each) after it has been used to sterilise my fermenter? If left in and sealed, will it keep them sterilised for the week of so it takes for the fermenter to finish its work?


    I have read several threads on the subject of home brewing and (apologies if my post here approaches the lengths of an @ericmark post!) I am aware of the consequences of too warm a brew in the early stages (and its exothermic qualities), but the climate controlled brewing chamber will have to wait. The reason for this post is simply to give clarity to the instructions I am trying to follow.

    Regards, MM
     
  2. ericmark

    ericmark

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    Cider is very different to beer, the longer a cider goes the dryer it gets, so either drink when at right dryness or add some thing to stop the fermenting at right dryness, the 7 day kits add water and yeast works well with cider, but not beer.

    Beer the temperature for first two days is critical, after first two days not so important.

    It is also important when using kits, as water not boiled, so needs the alcohol to stop it going off, it is never 100% however clean every so often one will fail, your using tap water, so always a chance.

    The temperature depends also on the yeast, kits from down under seem to work better in warm weather, but British kits when cool, they use different yeast.

    So with beer, the more sugar the more bitter after taste, also the warmer the more bitter after taste, so if you want high ABV then keeping the brew temperature down is important but not too cold or it will stall. Where you measure the temperature does matter, with no insulation the stick on thermometer shows an average between ambient temperature and brew temperature, so I stick the sensor under a sponge, the insulation of the sponge means within 0.5°C of centre temperature if heating from bottom, so elastic bands hold the sensor to side of fermenter under a sponge.

    So English kits, first two days, at 17°C stalled, at 18°C on the edge, at 19°C great, at 20°C OK but by 22°C getting bitter after taste, after two days can lift to 24°C if you want no problems. I find Scottish heavy can stand more sugar to Yorkshire bitter, so tend to go for Scottish heavy.

    Stout seems harder to mess up, so with poor temperature control stout is good.

    Larger is not real, to larger a beer it needs to be kept cool, around 6°C to 10°C and the kits simply stall at that temperature, so may be called Larger on the can, but it is more like an Indian Pale Ale in real terms, same temperatures used as rest of kits, i.e. not Larger.

    I tried using an old fridge, I thought would only need to heat, wrong, the fermenting makes heat, so it would have a thermal runaway, it needs the fridge to work to hold temperature down, so what I would do, 5 days in freezer compartment held at 19°C then move to fridge and once first 5 days over it did not have thermal run away.

    So at moment I wait for cool days to start the brew, as long as cool for first two days, no problem.

    Once I started using the old fridge/freezer to brew in, the time was the same with every brew, 7 days at 19°C and 14 days at 24°C and it never failed, so stopped using hydrometer. Only when it can get too cool is the hydrometer really needed.

    The swing top bottles will auto vent, however pop bottles need 12 for a fermenter full so easier to bottle (2 litre each) and since plastic you can squeeze sides and see if too much pressure without opening.

    Put syphon to bottom of bottle, then it does not fizz up, use a tap in pipe so you can stop and start when changing bottles.

    Lost fridge/freezer when I moved house, so now done in flat under main house, which is always cool, but not too cool, use a demo under floor heating tile 20 watt to raise temperature in flat, in freezer used an 8 watt bulb.

    Anyway need a top up, so going down to flat, far too hot to start a brew today, waiting for next cold spell.
     
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  4. MeldrewsMate

    MeldrewsMate

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    Thanks for that. Most of it I'd read from your previous posts, but good to have it in one place. Interesting data about keeping it cool for the first 2 to 3 days...more Celotex and some freezer blocks may be called for.

    The questions remain:
    1. After 5 days of brewing is there a significant risk of introducing unwanted bacteria by floating a hydrometer in the brew?
    2. Is the sterilising solution still potent after spending 10 mins in the fermenter, that is, is it potent enough to sterilise the bottles immediately after doing its job on the fermenter?
     
  5. ericmark

    ericmark

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    I would not worry about unwanted bacteria, just use the hydrometer, I have I thing one maybe two brews spoilt, but no idea where the fault lay, your using tap water, so what is the point going super clean?

    This time of year use Coopers, they seem to stand the heat better. A wet cloth will reduce the temperature, and with a bowl of water to keep damp better, fan blowing past better still, however my attempts to keep cool in summer have failed, until I used the old freezer, water trough would dry out, or is would end up too cool and stall, so in hot weather reduce the sugar a little and make a weak brew, which will not keep as well, but not really had problems.

    I found my attitude to ABV has changed, if the ABV is low it means I can drink more without falling over, so 40 pints ends up 50 pints, as extra water added, you can go silly with ABV, the method is to brew pure sugar, then put charcoal in it to absorb the taste so you have tasteless alcohol at around 21% ABV which you add to the beer to raise the ABV, but why bother, easier to just drink more.
     
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