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Homebrew questions... Help out a n00b.

Discussion in 'Beer & Food' started by binary visions, Mar 9, 2009.

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  1. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    Okay, so I've ordered some ingredients for my first batch of homebrew using borrowed equipment. I've helped out the friend who owns the equipment before, but never actually made a batch myself.

    I have a question about the yeast/starter. I ordered mail-order because the only brewing store nearby sucks and I don't want to drive two hours each way to go to the next closest one. It's liquid yeast, which I understand doesn't always ship well (though it's shipped with an ice pack which should help).

    In the interest of hedging my bets, I'll have two vials & a nutrient pack; I'd like to make a starter out of it to ensure that the shipping didn't kill too many of the yeast cells. It's my understanding that it's just water + a half cup or so of malt extract, boil, cool down, and pitch the yeast + whatever nutrient pack you've chosen. Since it's an IPA, should I pitch both yeasts into the starter? One into the starter, one into the final product? Do I need more water if I pitch both yeasts into the starter?

    I apologize in advance if these are dumb questions :D
     
    #1 -   Mar 9, 2009

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  2. I Are Baboon

    I Are Baboon Run, Forrest, Run!

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    You have to make the starter a day or two in advance. You don't make the starter then pitch it directly into the carboy. The yeast needs time to multiply.

    I have not used the vials...I use Wyeast smack packs. I wouldn't think you'd need to use both vials, though BadDNA uses them and will be able to answer better. As long as you properly prepare the starter, one vial should be enough.

    Northern Brewer's website has some good documentation on making a starter. This explained it all to me.

    How to make a starter.

    Correct pitching rates.
     
    #2 -   Mar 9, 2009
  3. BadDNA

    BadDNA hophead

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    For any batch, I usually make a 1L starter in an empty growler jug. I have never bothered with any nutrient though. I usually pitch one vial of White Labs yeast for whatever style I'm brewing. For the starter itself, I've used DME in the past and for Pilseners and other lighter colored beers I probably still will but for darker beers I think I'll be using Malta Goya as my starter. It's basically a malt extract soda, no alcohol in it and since it's sanitized when it's bottled there's no need for boiling or cooling.
     
    #3 -   Mar 9, 2009
  4. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    Thanks for the info, guys.

    Interesting, so what do you gain/lose from either method?
     
    #4 -   Mar 9, 2009
  5. BadDNA

    BadDNA hophead

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    Going the Malta Goya route, you save some time. If you use extract you have the ability to keep the color of the starter fairly light (MG is black as a coal mine).
     
    #5 -   Mar 9, 2009
  6. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    So, I was playing around with this calculator:

    http://www.mrmalty.com/calc/calc.html

    I only have a guess as to the production date of the yeast since it doesn't seem to be written on the vial. This calculator is recommending pitching both vials into a 1L starter.

    BadDNA; your experience is that one vial is enough? These were shipped but it's not quite warm weather yet and they had an ice pack for at least some of the journey. Obviously I don't want a stuck fermentation but I'd rather it not taste particularly yeasty either.

    Also, the recommendations for time on the starter are all over the place. Some people say 12-18 hours, some suggest a day, some suggest longer. Recommendations? :confused:
     
  7. BadDNA

    BadDNA hophead

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    I usually go for a day or two, the goal is for the starter to be ripping right along when you pitch it in the wort. My experience is that one vial is usually enough but two certainly won't hurt. No dates on the vials? What brand is that?
     
  8. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    It won't flavor the ale?

    It's got an expiration date, just no date of manufacture... it's White Labs, not exactly two-for-a-dollar at Joe's Yeast Emporium.
     
  9. BadDNA

    BadDNA hophead

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    Okay, the expiration date is the important date anyway and based on my experience, White Labs is what I use, especially if you're making starters, the yeast will usually be good for another 3-4 weeks after the date on the vial. You shouldn't see any difference between pitching one or two vials, remember, the whole idea behind making a starter is to get the yeast out of dormancy and eating and multiplying before you pitch it into your wort, you're going to end up with more yeast than you start with, every time.
     
  10. Arutha

    Arutha Monkey

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    I'd go by mrmalty to be safe. You'll be ok for many beers of say 1.070 OG or less but if you start trying to make "bigger" beers then you can run into problems. Some yeasts might pull it off but you also run the risk of solventy aromas or possible stalling. Also don't dismiss dry yeasts, there's a few out there that are pretty decent and much cheaper/easier.
     
  11. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    Okay, so I got my starter going yesterday morning. Not many bubbles were just going through the airlock but when I gave it a swirl, things would bubble merrily.

    This morning, things were a lot quieter and now it seems that all the yeasties have settled to the bottom and there are no more bubbles. Is that normal for only a ~30 hour period? Should I be concerned? I have a second vial of pitchable yeast if I need it.
     
  12. I Are Baboon

    I Are Baboon Run, Forrest, Run!

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    What happens when you swirl it now?

    I made a starter Thursday night. Friday morning swirl made yeast ANGRY. Friday evening swirl was real bubbly, but not quite as bad...they were obviously hungover. Saturday morning swirl they were not real excited but performed anyway, kind of like one of those aging rock bands like Aerosmith or the 'Stones.

    If you swirl today and gets suds, you're good. That's how it should be. There will not be bubbles unless you piss them off with a good swirl. SWIRL IT.
     
  13. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    I was swirling it pretty well and not really getting any bubbles...

    edit: I just gave it a vicious swirl and got a couple bubbles. Guess I'm good to go - they were pretty pissed off when I swirled them yesterday.
     
  14. I Are Baboon

    I Are Baboon Run, Forrest, Run!

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    Well the bubbles are the CO2 being released by the yeast consuming the fermentables. If there are no more bubbles, there are no more fermentables to consume, which means the yeast can do more more in the starter. Pitch it within 24 hours.
     
  15. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    I know, I was just surprised they had finished fermenting in such a short period of time and wondered if something had happened.

    Turns out, they just needed some jostling. On the car ride over to the brewing location, they woke the f**k up and started having little yeast volcanos in the bottom of the jar. Brewing went fine, pitched the yeast, we'll see how it turns out!

    OG was much higher than the recipe said it'd be, but was about on par (though a little higher) with what I calculated the recipe to be. Recipe said 1.066. I calculated 1.079. We measured 1.083.
     
  16. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    So, given that Austin Homebrew seemed to have left out my recipe (I called them for the hop schedule), is there a general rule I should follow about transferring to secondary or is it going to be recipe-specific and I need to call 'em again?
     
  17. I Are Baboon

    I Are Baboon Run, Forrest, Run!

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    When in doubt, follow the 2-2-2 rule for basic beers. 2 weeks in primary, two weeks in secondary, 2 weeks bottle conditioning. The IPA I made yesterday is also from Austin Homebrew and the only difference is that they say to give it three weeks for bottle conditioning.
     
  18. pnj

    pnj Turbo Monkey till the fat lady sings

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    You shouldn't transfer to the secondary until the fermentation is done. Use your hydrometer to check. Two weeks is usually a good general rule though. Many people don't secondary and just leave the beer in the primary, then bottle or keg.

    always give 3 weeks in the bottle. unless it's a bigger beer, then go longer.

    I bottle 22's but usually do a few 12 ouncers so I can sample one a week until go time. :)
    I think I'll crack a Porter in a few minutes..:D
     
  19. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    Someone I've been talking to about homebrewing claims that racking to secondary takes a lot of the yeast out (which makes sense) and ends up requiring more bottle conditioning time to ensure you don't have a flat beer.

    How much validity is there to this, and do you run the risk of having flat beer?
     
  20. I Are Baboon

    I Are Baboon Run, Forrest, Run!

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    I have not heard that racking to secondary causes longer bottle conditioning time. I can't see how it would cause your beer to go flat, either. You add sugar to the beer before bottling, and that's where the carbonation comes from. I don't see how that has anything to do with the secondary fermenting.

    Secondary fermenting is really just for adding clarity to your beer.

    Then again, I am a n00b.
     
  21. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    The reason adding sugar causes carbonation is because of the yeast. If you, in theory, removed all of the yeast before adding the priming sugar and bottling, you'd just end up with slightly sugary but uncarbonated beer.

    His idea is that siphoning off the beer gets rid of any live yeasties that may have settled to the bottom and therefore reduces the total yeast content. Given the number of people that do secondary fermentation, and that I haven't seen anyone mention this, I thought it might just be an overblown idea - one of those things that in theory might be a problem, but in practice doesn't matter.
     
  22. pnj

    pnj Turbo Monkey till the fat lady sings

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    You will never be able to remove ALL the yeast. from my understanding..

    Doing the secondary is to help the beer clear. I've never had a problem with carbonation...
     
  23. I Are Baboon

    I Are Baboon Run, Forrest, Run!

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    I tried my first homebrew last night (a double IPA) that I had racked to secondary and it was plenty carbonated.

    There is still a lot of yeast that gets moved into the secondary fermenter. I've had at least a half inch of trub in the bottom of the second fermenter in each of my first three batches.
     
  24. BikeGeek

    BikeGeek BrewMonkey

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    You're right that the secondary isn't always necessary, but, like I said in the other thread, unless you're purging the carboy with CO2, you should rack while your yeast is still a bit active to displace the air in the carboy headspace with CO2. Air is one of the worst things that can happen to finished beer.
     
  25. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    I racked to secondary this afternoon. The yeast was down to about 2 bubbles a minute. Recipe suggested 5-7 days in primary. Added an ounce and a half of hops.

    This was day 7, and the gravity measured 1.022. Still higher than the recipe suggested but 1.081 -> 1.022 = 0.059 and the recipe said OG should be 1.066, with FG at 1.012 which is 0.054 so the alcohol content is there. I wanted to heed BG's advice and rack while the yeast was still a little lively.

    So, the recipe suggests 7 days in secondary. While I found lots of references for moving it to secondary in the first week, most people seem to leave it in secondary longer. Anything to say about this? Better/worse/indifferent to leave it there longer than a week?
     
  26. BikeGeek

    BikeGeek BrewMonkey

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    The main reason to secondary is let your beer clarify before bottling. Ideally, you want to bring the temp. down to speed up the process, but the same thing can be accomplished with time, which is probably why you hear about people letting it go longer. I've always left my beer in secondary for at least a week for ales and up to 3 months for lagers. I bottled a beer today that's been in secondary for 8 months at 68F with no unintended funkiness to it, but it is a belgian bacteria cocktail (Flanders Red) and should probably left out of this discussion. :)
     
  27. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    With the hops in there, is there any reason why two weeks in secondary would be a problem? I like a hoppy beer, for sure, I just don't want it to be completely overwhelming.

    edit: thanks for all of your guidance, BTW. Still learning but I've really enjoyed all parts of the brewing and it will definitely be a new hobby :thumb:
     
  28. BikeGeek

    BikeGeek BrewMonkey

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    Missed the part about the hops being in there... I'd probably let it go at least 2 weeks, but if you want to be sure, pull a sample after a week and give it a sniff.
     
  29. Arutha

    Arutha Monkey

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    Are you talking about dry hopping? I wouldn't go longer than a week if you are, if you do because something came up then don't worry and have a homebrew. Many people cite grassy aromas if left too long. The amount of hops, their form, and type will certainly affect your preceived impact on aroma. But I doubt most kits go overboard with them. I typically dry hop with 4oz of northwest style hop pellets in my IPAs but I like them aggressive.
     
    #29 -   Mar 22, 2009
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2009
  30. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    I'm dry hopping with about an ounce and a half of pellets.
     
  31. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    Woo, bottled today :D

    Color was a tiny bit lighter than I expected, but still looked decent. Smell were good, taste was good from the tiny amount that I sampled. Everything went well, yielded about 45 bottles. I'm excited!

    Alcohol content was up around 8.4%, even after accounting for a higher-than-actual OG :eek:. I went by my calculated OG instead of the measured one, because I believe we didn't stir it sufficiently. FG was 1.015, dropped quite a bit in the secondary fermenter. I think I moved it a little too soon, but was concerned about moving it while the yeast was still active.

    Anyone try using dry ice to introduce CO2 into the headspace of a carboy? I was going to take a sample last week and test the gravity but things got crazy and it didn't happen; my brewing partner suggested that dry ice was cheaply available at the local store to replenish the cushion of CO2 that would be disturbed during the sampling.
     
  32. I Are Baboon

    I Are Baboon Run, Forrest, Run!

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    8.4% IPA? That's real high.
     
  33. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    Yeah, I've done some recalculating.. I think our OG was off by quite a bit. It's still a very high alcohol % (that is, the recipe is around 7.5%), but I think it's down more around 8% or there abouts. Still very high, but lacking the recipe, I found out that we were actually supposed to bring it up to 5.25 gal and we only brought it up to 5 gal so between an off OG and differing volume, I think that explains the issue.

    Got some notes on what we should do differently next time to give us better estimates :thumb:
     
  34. I Are Baboon

    I Are Baboon Run, Forrest, Run!

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    Yeah, my first batch was the double IPA and I made a couple of mistakes. I want another crack at that one.

    My OG readings the last three batches have been consistently off by .005, according to the kit instructions. I ordered another hydrometer last night. I find it hard to believe that I am making mistakes with every batch, seeing how I am following directions exactly.
     
  35. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    You can just check the calibration on your hydrometer. It should read 1.000 in distilled water at whatever temperature is printed on your hydrometer (probably 60 degrees F).
     
  36. BikeGeek

    BikeGeek BrewMonkey

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    All kinds of things could explain the OG differences. It could be your kit was originally built with one brand of extract but another was substituted (fermentability varies by brand, and even by batch of the same brand). Perhaps you're losing more or less to boil-off than the shop did. If you're relying on the marks on your bucket as measurement when topping-off after your boil you may want to verify the marks are accurate before the next batch (all my buckets are off by about a quart).

    I wouldn't sweat it. The yeast should still attenuate about the same percentage. If you have a lower OG, your FG will most likely be a bit lower too.
     
  37. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    So BG, in your experience, what would cause the OG difference between 1.066 (what the recipe said) and 1.083 (measured)? The hydrometer appears to be fine, and the FG is right where it should be. That's just a big ol' whack of gravity going unaccounted for. Heck, if I use the real numbers that we measured, I get about a 9% beer, which doesn't appear to be valid from 9lbs of LME.

    Lack of stirring is what I'm attributing it to but in theory, the more dense beer should actually tend to move towards the bottom, away from the hydrometer. With the temperature differences, though, there was bound to be some current.
     
  38. BikeGeek

    BikeGeek BrewMonkey

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    Wow, BV that is a big difference. Even with the variations in extract potential gravity, I can't account for a difference that big. The only time I ever had differences like that was when I brewed recipes intended to produce a 6 gallon batch as a 5 gallon batch.
     
  39. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    Well, I think realistically the target OG was about 0.005 or so low. All calculations I've made have suggested 1.071-1.073... but it's still a big ol' difference and the hydrometer doesn't seem to be immediately to blame.

    It was a 5.25 gallon batch that I brewed as a 5 gallon batch, but nothing too extreme.
     
  40. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    So, picking at OG/FG levels and minor problems with how it was brewed aside...

    The beer is GREAT :thumb:

    I'm really happy with it. I think it needs another couple weeks in the bottle (which it's getting anyway; it's my graduation beer and that's not for another 3 weeks), but it's really, really a tasty beer. Nice and hoppy, good aroma, nice color, good clarity... I couldn't possibly have asked for a better first batch: it's exactly what I wanted it to be.