Porter is fermenting nicely. Newbie's first brew.

I dusted off a pretty old brewkit (TrueBrew) recently and brewed my first batch. The kit was a porter and I think I did everything fine cuz my airlock is gurgling nicely after more than 24 hours since putting the wort into the fermenter. I think I'm on way to beer, but have some newbie questions.
1. I discussed this in an earlier post and everyone seemed to say "go ahead and brew it to see what happens", but the kit was at least two years old and that kinda concerned me. The only thing I noticed was that one bag of the dried malt had some serious clumping going on. Like hard clods of dried malt extract. The smaller ones melted, but I had a large clod or two that I plucked out of the brew and threw out. Otherwise, everything looked fine. The second bag of dried malt extract did not suffer this clumping. I bought new yeast since the original packet had expired long ago. When I pitched the yeast, evidence of fermentation began within minutes. My yeast was hungry!
2. So it has been downstairs in a plastic fermenter with the airlock on tight. I check on the brew now and again and it has been fermenting just fine. My basement is a tad on the musty side and I'm concerned about off-flavors. Should I place the fermenter somewhere else in my apartment? My only concern is that it can get pretty warm, even in September, where I live. Certainly above the 75-degree mark. Right now the wort smells like a sweet, malty porter when I put my nose above the airlock. Just dunno if anything is going to get in there that I don't like.
3. When I strained the steeped grains into the wort, my strainer let some of the grains through. I spooned out as much as I could (sanitized spoon), but some 20-30 grains remained in the wort when I put it in the fermenter. I wasn't going to throw out the whole batch just for that and assumed that the grains would settle. Am I right? Or are some of my bottles going to be 'chunky style'?
4. When I started the brew, I used too much water and after adding the liquid malt extract, realized my error. I Dissolved the can of extract completely into the water and then poured off about a pint or two of the mixture so that the remaining ingredients would fit in the brewpot. I suspect this will reduce my alcohol content.
5. How many days do I wait? I thought I heard three days and then seven days and then "wait until the airlock shows no activity" and also suggestions that I take hydrometer readings to be sure that fermentation is complete (I took a reading in my logbook before pitching the yeast). When do I rack and fill?
I think that's it. Thanks in advance for any advice. Even if this brew doesn't turn out right, at least I got to do a dry run (and I enjoyed it a lot) so the next one goes more smoothly.
JM
Reply to
Joe Murphy

You have reduced the total amount of fermentable sugars by doing this, it shouldn't be too much of a problem though it will affect the end result.
Otherwise, everything looked fine.
Your basement shouldn't be a problem, the wort is in a sealed contianer, I wouldn't be opening the fermenter down there though, it may allow some rogue yeast or other bacteria in.
My
Given enough time they should all settle in to the trub.
Just like before, it will reduce the OG of the wort but shouldn't have too much of an impact, if you make this mistake again it would be a wise idea to make a smaller final batch (ie, make a 4 gal batch instead of 5)
Use your hydrometer, once you get the same measurement two days in a row it's time to rack (syphon) to a secondary container, if you don't want to rack the wort to a secondary vessel then wait at least 1 week after fermentation stops, this will help your beer to clear. Try to avoid leaving your beer in the primamry fermenter for more than two weeks after the completion of fermentation.
Because of the age of the kit the hops aromas might not be as noticable as they should be but your beer should still turn out OK, let us all know how it goes.
Reply to
Spanky
and
I wouldn't worry too much about the clumping... it just shows the age of your extract. Old extract can be a source of "cidery" flavors in your finished beer, although I've never experienced it. You're probably fine.
Keep it cool, less than 75 degrees if you can. It doesn't matter if you put it in your musty basement. As long as you have an airlock on it, it's safe.
If you've only got 20-30 grains in there, it's not going to hurt anything. When you go to bottle, siphon off all the clean beer to another bucket and leave behind the yeast and chunks on the bottom.
Time to get a bigger brewpot! Pouring off one quart of wort will have negligible effect. Everything will be fine. You won't be able to tell the difference.
Next time consider making 2.5 gallon batches like I do. Even though I consider myself a beer aficionado, I usually do smaller batches because I am not really a big drinker (I probably drink 3 homebrews/week on the average), and then if I royally screw up a batch like I do every so often, I've only wasted about $20 instead of $30 on supplies, and I don't feel as bad about dumping 25 bottles down the sink as I do 50. It's happened a couple of times, out of about 25 brews that I've made. The whole homebrewing process is definitely a learning experience, from purchasing supplies to gulping the beer.
It will probably take anywhere from 7 to 14 days to complete fermentation, depending on a zillion factors, including health of the yeast, type of yeast used, temperature, phase of the moon (just kidding... sort of...), etc. A lot of people will tell you to check the gravity right away, but I think this is more of a pain in the butt. Or maybe I'm just a little more patient. I usually wait until the airlock quits bubbling, then give it another 2-3 days to be absolutely sure, then finally I pop the top, and take a gravity reading. For an extract brew, if the gravity is at 1.020 or lower, that's usually pretty good. Extract brews don't ferment much farther than that, at least for me. You can probably bottle the same day, if the gravity is 1.020 or lower. Don't push it, though. If you're not absolutely sure if it's done fermenting yet, bottling early can be disastrous.... you can end up with gusher bottles that completely foam up when you pop the cap, or you can even have explosions! To be safe, wait until you think fermentation is finished, and then wait a few more days just to be certain. That's what I've learned from my experience. Fermentation is complete when there is nothing new going on for several days. That's the best way I can describe it. You can confirm with gravity readings, or you can read the airlock as long as the airlock is tight. That's my opinion.
I think you'll be pleased with the result. It sounds like you've done your research and know how to do everything by the book.
--
Dave
"Just a drink, a little drink, and I'll be feeling GOOooOOooOOooD!" -- 
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Reply to
David M. Taylor

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