New to Home Brew

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I just put my first 5 gallon batch into the fermentation bucket this
saturday and it leads me to several questions:

1. the original gravity was .002 below what was considered normal for
the recipe does this speak of a problem? or is it acceptable?

2.  I am reading the new complete joy of home brewing and it talks
about the foam and oils that will rise at 36 hours after you start the
fermentation. It says to remove it if you can without contamination..
What measures for insuring a lack of contamination have been
successful for others?

3.  The kit I was given has the bottling spout and the airlock port on
the same bucket? Is it a problem if you add the priming sugar to the
fermentation bucket and stir it gently in before bottling?

4.  My wife has voiced an interest in using honey in the recipe? How
might this be attempted etc.

Thanks a bunch,


Re: New to Home Brew
On Tue, 30 Dec 2003 02:22:38 GMT, wrote:
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Welcome.  We've been brewing for about eight months.  We're about to
bottle our seventh beer.  That said, you might want a second opinion.

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Relax!  At this stage brewing is more like cooking than microbiology.
Slight variations are not only acceptable, they're to be expected.

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Sanitize things for the recommended amount of time.  Don't rush.  If
you're going to sneeze, do it somewhere else.  :)

Kraeusen (that foam) isn't a problem if you can keep your fermenter
cool.  Our first few batches fermented up to 80F.  They had a lot of
heavy alcohols even though they blew off about a pint of liquid.  It
takes a lot of foam to make a pint of liquid.

Now we're using wet t-shirts to knock the temperature down to 76F.
We're also using larger carboys, so all the kraeusen falls back into the
beer.  Those few degrees have made a world of difference, and we look
forward to better chilling in the future.

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The goal is to mix your priming sugar evenly and completely into the
beer.  That ensures consistent carbonation for every bottle, which is as
much an issue of safety as it is good beer.

New Joy of Home Brewing suggests boiling the sugar and mixing the
solution in.  That sanitizes the sugar and ensures it's dissolved
completely.  I assume there's less stirring involved, too.

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Easily.  There are several recipes around the web that use honey.  We've
brewed a version of "Pocahontas' Pumpkin Pleaser" and two batches of
"Nosfaratu's Return".  The pumpkin ale has a pound of honey, and the
stout-like things have two.

Things to watch out for:

Pumpkin's tricky.  I wouldn't recommend it 'til you're comfortable with
what you're doing.  Search the newsgroups for all sorts of controversy.

Honey will add a lot to your original gravity.  Depending on the amount,
your primary ferment will be warmer, vigorous, and it may last
surprisingly long.  You may want to use a blow-off tube the first time
you try it.

Your beer will be stronger.  It may be strong enough to stunt or kill
the yeast before it's done.  This happened with our second batch of
"Nosferatu's Return".  We got a record (for us) 1.074 original gravity,
and our yeast was pretty tired by the time it fermented down to 1.025.
The beer still isn't fully carbonated, but it's tasty.

The moral there is to use a yeast that can handle the extra alcohol.

"Pitch large", as they say.  The more yeast you start with, the more
completely they consume your sugar.  If you pitch dry yeast, use extra.
If you use liquid yeast, generate more with a starter.  Starters aren't
hard, but they're an extra step that can introduce infection.  Our first
and only one so far was successful, but I'm still nervous about them.

Be sure your wort's well oxygenated after it's cooled to pitching
temperature.  Yeast use oxygen early on when they reproduce.  They get
down to business when the oxygen runs out.  This is a complement to
"pitch large".

The section on meads in New Joy of Home Brewing suggests boiling honey
for only 15 minutes so more flavor carries through.  We've been boiling
it for the full 60 minutes so far, but we plan to add honey at the
last 15 minutes next time we try it.  Theoretically, five minutes at
160F is enough to sanitize it.

Come to think of it, the book mentions honey in a few places.  Check the

I hope I haven't steered you wrong.  Have fun!

Rocco Caputo - -
Re: New to Home Brew
Thanks for the awesome reply,
I have often been hesitant to use newsgroups 1 becuase the risk of
spam and 2 because it was rare to get good responses. You replies have
made me reevaluate my position.

Happy New Year


Re: New to Home Brew
"" wrote:

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Put a spam trap on your email address.  Mine has one.  I post to newsgroups
all the time and am practically spam-free.  ;)


Re: New to Home Brew
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Absolutely.  I NEVER achieve the target gravity on my beers, and they turn
out just fine.

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Agreed, sanitation is key.  However, in my experience, it is NOT necessary
to remove the kreusen.  There is little if any benefit to doing so, plus you
would introduce the possibility of contamination if you did happen to sneeze
or if some dust or hair got into your brew.  I don't think it's worth the
risk.  Skip it.

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Right again.  Dissolve your priming sugar in a little water and boil for a
few minutes to kill the nasties.  Then, yes, you can stir this gently into
your fermenter.

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Rocco, I think you've gotten off on a tangent here.  (And personally, I am
not a
fan of pumpkin beers.  Yecch!!  You can add spices to a beer without adding

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In small quantities (5 to 15% of the sugar bill), honey will add a small
amount of alcoholic strength and flavor without messing up your fermentation
time.  However, in greater quantities, you are right, fermentation may take
a month or two.

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I have come to realize that yeast starters are VERY important.  I mean, you
don't have to use a starter necessarily, but the odds of infection are far
greater if you DON'T use a starter than if you DO (yes, that's right!).  I
learned the hard way.  I didn't use a starter on my Christmas ale, and it
ended up taking a month and a half to ferment, after having added THREE
different kinds of yeast!  I mean, I tied everything but nothing wanted to
work.  Finally, my gravity ended up where I wanted it, but I have this
stinking feeling that had I used a yeast starter in the first place, it
would have fermented fine right off the bat, as it did the first time I made
this brew 3 years ago.  So from now on, I will be using a starter.

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Absolutely.  Early aeration makes a big difference.

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On a related note, do make sure you boil the honey in the wort for some
length of time (5 minutes might even be enough, but I think I'd do it for
15).  I once added honey to a brew without boiling, and it ended up infected
and I had to dump the entire batch.  There are wild yeasts and bacteria that
live in honey naturally, which need to be murdered prior to use in beer.
Unless you enjoy the flavor of ripe puke in your beer, which I don't really
care for personally, but maybe that's just me.  ;)

Good luck in all of your beer adventures,

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

Re: New to Home Brew
"" wrote:

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You may not have a low OG at all.  Many people report the same problem
when in reality they are reading the hydrometer wrong.  You need to be
reading at the top of the meniscus, not the bottom.  The difference is
about .002.  In any case, being off by only that much doesn't really make
any difference that you would ever notice.

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Don't mess with it at this point.  You are much more likely to screw
things up than you are to improve anything.

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When you are ready to bottle, you should carefully siphon off the beer
into a sanitized bucket for bottling.  There are a number of problems with
bottling from the spout.  First, when you mix the priming sugar into the
beer, you will be disturbing the layer of trub (yeast, cold break, hop
debris, etc.) from the bottom of the bucket.  This crud will then end up
in your bottles.  If your spout is above that layer, you can use it to
decant the beer into a bottling bucket instead of using a siphon.  If you
use the spout, be sure to attach a piece of sanitized tubing to the spout
so you can put the end on the bottom of whatever container you are putting
the beer into.  This will keep air from getting mixed into the beer.  At
this point in the process, air (oxygen more specifically) is your enemy.
If you try to pour directly from the spout into a bucket or into a bottle,
you will mix lots of air into the beer and this will skunk it badly.  The
priming sugar (5 oz by weight or 3/4 cup by volume of corn sugar) should
be boiled in two cups of water for a couple of minutes and allowed to cool
to fermentation temperature.  I generally dump this in the bottling bucket
and siphon the beer on top of it.  Be sure to stir gently but thoroughly
to make sure the sugar mixture is evenly stirred in.  From the bottling
bucket you can then siphon into bottles using a bottle filler to start and
stop the flow (or you can simply pinch the siphon tube as you switch

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Honey can be very nice in the right beers in the right amounts.  Wheat
beers are nice with some honey in them.  Depending on where the honey is
from (and what types of flowers the bees used) the flavor can vary
widely.  You will generally want to use a light flavor honey from a single
source, preferably local.  The national, or generic brands of honey are
generally blended from producers from all over this and any number of
other countries.  These are generally pretty strong tasting and tend to
not blend well in beer.  Locally produced honey  will be fresher and will
usually reflect flavors from only a few types of flowers.  Honey from
clover or from fruit orchards seem to be the best tasting.  Honey will
also tend to ferment out more completly than malt sugars, thus raising the
alcohol content and producing a drier tasting beer.  Honey is also lower
in the nutrients needed by the yeast so a yeast nutrient may also be
needed (not a bad idea anyway) in your recipe.  The more honey you use,
the longer it will take for the flavors to mellow out.  My honey botchard
(a hopped honey beer with no malt sugars) took 10 months to turn into
something really tasty ( I almost pitched it out after the first 6 weeks
because it tasted so nasty).  Check around for recipes for beers using
honey before going at it blindly.

Welcome to the obsession!  Another web resource to check is
rec.crafts.brewing.  That newsgroup is much more active than this one,
over 100 posts per day.  That bunch is the most helpful and friendly bunch
of beer brewing fanatics you will find anywhere.  Check it out.

Bugeater Brewing Company

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Re: New to Home Brew
Wayne Faris wrote:
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Sorry, but I think you are wrong here. The correct place to read is the
bottom of the meniscus. The meniscus is a curve formed by the surface
tension of the liquid...if its a thick liquid (e.g. mercury) the curve will
up whilst beer/wine will be a valley. The edges of the meniscus ... whether
the a hill or valey...are the result of surface tension meeting the side
of the vessel/tube. In the case of a valley in the case of
fermenting beer/wine, the edges are higher than the bottom so reading
the top of the meniscus will give you a high reading. For this
reason one always reads the bottom of the meniscus for fermentation
and the top when reading mercury thermometers.

...but, as you correctly said, the difference is usually insignificant in
terms of whether the ferment is ready for bottling. The best way to judge
that is a couple or three days of the same reading that is near the target


Former Organic Chemist (now retired)


Will Chapman
nb Quidditch

Re: New to Home Brew
On Sat, 10 Jan 2004 14:24:00 -0000, "Will Chapman"

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As verified by the instructions with my hydrometer which says, "Read
from the BOTTOM of the miniscus".

Incidentally,it also points out that before taking a reading you
should spin it, to remover any air bubbles clinging to the bulb and
affecting the reading.


Re: New to Home Brew
"KGB (KGB)" wrote:

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Same here..

Life begins at 60 - 1.060, that is.

Reply to denny_dot_g_dot_conn_at_ci_dot_eugene_dot_or_dot_us

Re: New to Home Brew
"" wrote:

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It's fine.

Don't bother with the skimming.  It brings an unnecessary risk of
contamination and doesn't improve things substantially.

I admire Papazian for his enthusiasm for the hobby, but some of his methods
are a tad wonky.  :)

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I wouldn't.  You're likely to stir the yeast and trub from your fermentor
back into suspension.  Most people transfer their beer to a separate
bottling bucket and add priming sugar (boiled with a little water) there.

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You can add it to the fermenter any time (either straight into the fermentor
or boiled with a little water), but this will make fermentation start back
up again.  You'll need to wait until it's done again before you bottle.  You
can also use honey to bottle (instead of priming sugar), but you won't get
much honey character with the tiny amount needed to prime.

Good luck!


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