Homebrew

Beers.png (1 MB)

These were brewed in August 2006. I don’t remember what they were anymore, but I think one of them was a pumpkin ale and the other was an Irish red ale. The one on the left was fermenting so vigorously that I had to replace the airlock with the jury-rigged racking cane + bowl of water setup so the airlock wouldn’t clog with foam and blow right off.

Sadly, I was having trouble with sanitization, and both brews picked up a bad chemical smell and taste and had to be dumped. This became an ongoing problem with my brews and is one of the reasons I stopped brewing.

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    21 Responses to Homebrew

    1. When it bubbles too much for the air lock, instead of putting the tube through a bowl of water, use a bowl of cheap vodka. Keeps it sanitary. Some people put vodka in the airlock instead of water, but I’ve never found it necessary.

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    2. Also, why are your carboys have empty. Fill them up the neck, top it off with some purified water if you don’t have enough wort. Ethanol fermentation is an anaerobic process, so any oxygen is providing an aerobic environment for the contaminates to thrive.

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    3. One of the carboys (the taller one in the back) is a 6-gallon, but I stuck with the recipe for 5 gallons, so there’s a lot of head space in that one. That’s a lot of extra water to add and I wouldn’t want to dilute the beer that much, though I’ll keep that in mind when I start up again. Not to mention it’s my only 6-gallon carboy so there wouldn’t be a suitably large vessel for secondary fermentation. I didn’t think the oxygen in the head space mattered much because the fermentation produces a lot of CO2, which is heavier than O2 and should displace most of the O2 in the headspace once fermentation is underway.

      I also didn’t think the racking cane setup would cause sanitation problems because there shouldn’t be any intake of dirty water from the bowl up into the carboy. Plus it was an “oh shit” moment and I had to come up with something on the spot.

      But at the end of the day, I’m the one who had to toss both of these brews and you’re the one who makes good beer. I definitely need to tighten up my sanitation next time. And I’m not using that godawful pink powder that the local shop sells. I found bits of shredded plastic baggie in the last batch I bought. Star-San or nothing.

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    4. lol science with a couple of sub 1k mcs users.

      awesome sause

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    5. um, you guys should totally change your bongwater

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    6. im gonna have to try that bowl of water airlock trick, thanks for the tip!!

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    7. We use a very diluted bleach/water solution to clean all containers and tools, then rinse well with hot water.
      Are you using tap water to make your brew or bottled/filtered? If tap, are you sanitizing it first somehow?
      Are you sure your brew is getting hot enough when you first cook it?

      I don’t see any reason why you would be getting contaminated during fermentation, unless there is drastic change in temperature causing a vacuum. The bacteria has to be in there to start with some how.

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      • I used store-bought bottled distilled (not spring or mineral) water for brewing. Boiled 3 gallons of wort, and added the rest to the carboy afterward to make five gallons after the 3 gallons cooled. Our electric stove could barely keep 3 gallons of water at a boil, I had no chance of doing a full boil. We live in a 3rd-floor apartment and are not allowed to have anything like a barbecue, turkey fryer, etc. on the balcony. Our place is generally unsuited to brewing.

        I sanitized the equipment using the pink chlorine-based powder sanitizer that my local HBS carried, rinsed with tap water.

        I’m not certain that it was a bacterial contamination issue, it might have been oxidation. After the wort cooled down and I added the remaining water, I would shake the carboy to mix in some oxygen for the yeast (I’m pretty sure Papazian’s book told me to do this), but the wort may not have chilled enough.

        I haven’t done this in years, and I don’t know anybody else local who brews, so I’m completely out of practice and don’t really remember everything I used to do, and why.

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        • Not getting a full boil should be fine, if you used distilled water to cool the wort, but oxidizing after the wort has cooled is bad news. That could be the culprit.
          Basically, everything you do after the wort has cooled should minimize oxidation. For example, that’s why transferring to the secondary should be done by siphoning instead of just pouring.

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          • I’m going to have to dig out the books I bought for this. I was sure that I read that a certain amount of dissolved oxygen is necessary for the yeast to begin their work, and boiling the wort removes all of the dissolved oxygen, so some has to be re-introduced. Some people use an aquarium aerator for this; I gave the carboy a vigorous shake for five or ten minutes.

            Once I’ve got my specific gravity sample, the yeast is pitched, an airlock is in place and the carboy is in the closet, I disturb it as little as possible (including siphoning to the secondary instead of pouring, as you say).

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        • Let me encourage you to try again. The method I use (beer, wine, cider) is to use a 7 gallon bucket for a 5 gallon batch, during the initial fermentation. With beer, it just stays in the bucket until ready for bottling. With wine & cider it gets racked into a carboy after a few days, when the yeast slows down.

          Are you keeping a steady temperature? Beer needs to be kept cool for a slow fermentation. If it is too warm, certain bad bacteria are able to grow. Also, beer is better in the dark. This is why most bottles are dark. Carboys let in light, so it’s better if you keep that covered or in a closet.

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          • This is in a closet, I only opened it to check on the homemade airlock and to take the photo. The temperature is as steady as it can be in a 3rd-floor apartment with no AC in August; being in the closet kept the temperature fairly steady, though I would have liked it to be cooler.

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    8. The only home brewed thing I ever drank was shine

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    9. I used to make hard cider and applejack, your gear is about 5 steps of sophistication and 3 steps of legality compared to what I used.

      But if I could make drinkable hard cider with old oil containers and crappy well water in a minimally sanitary environment hidden away, you should be able to use purpose-built gear that doesn’t have to be stealthy to make a simple beer … maybe focus on the basics and drop the complications?

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    10. For sanitation I use an iodine solution. Easy and it works.

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    11. btw, thanks for all the tips and encouragement. It’s nice to see a friendly community of brewers here. I only wish I had more local resources to help — especially somebody who could take a sample from these bad batches and tell me exactly what went wrong!

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