My recent experiments

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I brewed a batch last Saturday, but it was unplanned; I was supposed to
mow the grass, but it was raining and my wife and kids were gone for the
day, so what's a guy to do?? -- BREW!  But this was a last minute
decision after I had finished a few other chores and had already had a
few brewskis, so my judgment probably wasn't the best and I ended up
combining too many variables with my experiment.  Now if it turns out
lousy, I won't really know the cause, but I'll share anyway.

First, I still haven't gotten off of my lazy ass to finish my all-grain
equipment, so I'm still doing kits.  My last IPA that I fermented in my
Mr. Beer turned out pretty good -- probably due to the improved
techniques that I learned here (thank you to all who have helped with
great advice).  Anyway, I decided to pick up another kit last week
without any particular idea when I'd use it, along with a bit of DME
(damned expensive stuff at the LHBS -- $3.95/lb or $10.95/3 lbs, so I
just bought one pound).  Besides that, on Friday I happened to pick up
another free 5-gallon food-grade bucket and lid from the bakery section
of Walmart.

So here is my experiment:

1.)  I brewed another "Cooper's IPA" which has 1.7kg/3.75lbs of
pre-hopped extract.  The instructions say to add 1kg/2.2# of "brewing
sugar", and that is for a 5 gallon batch.  But since I decided to
ferment in my new bucket which is only 5 gallons, I aimed for a 4 gallon
batch to give it some headroom.  PLUS, I decided to complicate my
experiment by adding half DME and half table-sugar ('cause Denny Conn
says it won't make much difference, I think, up to 20% fermentables),
and a half-pound of sugar is pretty close to that, so I added it plus a
half-pound of DME.  That is just about the right _proportion_ of
fermentables per the instructions, but of course the pre-added hops were
intended for a 5 gallon batch and are now concentrated into a 4 gallon
batch, so I expect that this will be noticeably hoppier.

2.)  A few minutes after the boil began, I took a small portion of the
wort and cooled it off in a separate sanitized plastic bottle; I chilled
it with some ice water to drop it to room temp.  I then added an 8 gram
packet of Cooper's yeast that came with the kit; this was to rehydrate
it, and just about the time that I dumped it into the wort, a little
voice in my head was questioning me: "Don't you remember reading
something somewhere that said that dried yeast should be rehydrated only
in water, because of the osmotic pressure of wort?"  Anyway, it was too
late then, so I didn't bother trying to find an answer and just hoped
for the best.  Anyway, I periodically shook the hell out of the starter
until I eventually pitched it hours later, and it was gasing well, so I
guess I didn't hurt it too much.

3.)  I decided to try, for the first time, fermenting in a bucket
instead of one of my carboys, so I just set the lid on the bucket,
without snapping it in place.  I was debating whether or not to skim the
kraeusen later (I did, but only after most of it already dropped back
into the beer, so I pretty much missed the boat on that one, but I
digress).  Anyway, I aerated by pouring the wort between buckets (which
I have since read is not a very effective method, but it has always
worked for me).  Well, right before pitching I got the brainstorm
(perhaps influenced by my drinking) that I should drop the temp of the
beer to something below the ideal ferment temp of 65F/18C, and then let
it gradually rise to that temp and the yeast could start doing their
thing as soon as they feel warm enough.  I therefore stuck the whole
bucket inside my chest freezer for a couple of hours, and it felt nice
and cold when I removed it (misplaced my thermometer, so I couldn't
check the temp, but it was definitely colder than other objects at room
temp -- I put my hand on the counter and then on the side of the bucket
to check).  Without giving a second thought to the yeast starter being
at room temp, I dumped it into the cold wort, no doubt being
unnecessarily cruel to my poor little yeasties.  But despite the abuse,
the next morning there was a small head of foam on top, so I guess I
didn't kill them off.

4.)  At that point, I decided to try to maintain the temp by sitting the
bucket down inside my ice-cube ice chest.  It isn't quite deep enough to
be able to shut the lid, so I removed the lid and covered it with a
towel, but first I put some cool water and some ice cubes into the ice
chest.  Later, I finally skimmed a small amount of kraeusen off the top,
but most of it had already settled and dissolved; I know this because I
couldn't resist the temptation to peek under the lid a couple of times,
and at one point the kraeusen was almost to the top of the bucket..

5.)  On Tuesday I decided to rack to a carboy for secondary and/or to
finish the very end of primary, and there was some trub in the bottom of
the bucket.  I realize that this was very early to rack, but I'm in a
hurry to get this stuff into some bottles to begin carbonating because I
have a picnic to go to in two weeks from this Saturday.  I tasted it
when racking, and there are no signs of any off flavors that I can
detect, and no signs of any cidery flavor, either.  I now notice some
additional trub in the carboy, and no activity at all in the air lock,
but I'll let it sit until Monday (only 6 days in secondary) when I'll
check it with a hydrometer and then presumably bottle on that day.  It
will then be in the bottles for 12 days before we will drink them; in
the past my bottles usually carbonate in just a week, but I'm allowing a
little extra time to be sure.

Assuming that I was sanitary enough, and didn't contaminate it when
'peeking', is there any chance that this will be reasonably drinkable?  
I know: only time will tell.


Bill Velek

Re: My recent experiments
Sounds like you did a fine job to me.  Hope it gets carbonated in time.

"Just a drink, a little drink, and I'll be feeling GOOooOOooOOooD!" --
Genesis, 1973-ish

Re: My recent experiments
Bill Velek wrote:
Quoted text here. Click to load it
I've made quite a few batches while I was completely blitzed and they
turned out alright!  I've got this bad habbit of making beer after I've
had too many... Haven't dropped a carboy yet... a few hydrometers
though... funny how they explode on contact with the floor.

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