Here is the followup post to how my very first homebrew session went - as you may recall, I was doing a dry malt extract recipe for Yorkshire brown ale.
I found it to be a very enjoyable process. First off was making the grain tea, where I steeped my specialty grains in hot water for 25 minutes. I then added water and brought the whole thing to a boil (nearly boiling over in the process). From there, I removed it from the heat, stirred in my dry malt extract and a gallon of water, returned the mixture to boiling, added my bittering hops, and boiled for an hour. Easy peasy. My recipe did not call for flavor or aroma hops, so I didn't have to worry about the timing on these (though I did add a packet of yeast fuel with fifteen minutes left in the boil).
Next up, I cooled the batch down with my wort chiller, then poured it into my 6.5 gallon carboy (essentially a big honking glass bottle). Following, I aerated via lots of shaking and sloshing, and finally, I added my liquid yeast (a limited edition variety from White Labs).
I will admit to being fairly concerned, since my orignial gravity reading was way too high - I was expecting 1.051, but actually pulled a 1.075 (consistent over several samplings). I double checked, and yes, I got a 1.000 for plain water... so theoretically, my hydrometer is not broken. If that reading is correct, it means that I ended up with way more sugars dissolved in my wort than I expected to get. This gives me four possible outcomes:
1. Too much sugar in the beer = more sugar than the yeast can eat = beer that is maltier (sweeter) than intended.
2. Too much sugar in the beer = yeast eats more sugar than the recipe expected = higher alcohol content. My target was 5.0% alcohol by volume; if all of that extra sugar ferments, I could see as much as 8.1% alcohol by volume. Holy cow!
3. A mix of #1 and #2 = beer that is both somewhat sweeter and somewhat stronger than intended.
4. I'm a rookie brewer, and my original gravity reading was incorrect. This is possible; my brew batch size was 3 gallons prior to boiling; post boil, I added enough water to get it to about 5.25 gallons (though I will admit that I did not get an exact measurement). Despite my best efforts, I may not have mixed it thoroughly, and so my sample could have had more concentrated wort (beer solution) than water in it, meaning more sugars in that tiny sample (but the batch as a whole is fine - the fermentation process will ensure complete mixture).
I guess that when all is said and done, we'll just see. What the heck, I have a huge bottle of beer happily fermenting in my closet right now (it was already bubbling away by the following morning); worst case, I'll end up with less than perfect (but likely still very good) fresh homebrewed beer.
I did gain a bit of wisdom regarding liquid yeast during the brewing process. My vial of yeast was completely separated upon arrival - a solid brownish sludge with mostly clear liquid. At first, this worried me, but a little online research suggested that this was completely normal. Following other advice, I took the yeast out of the fridge a good eight hours before brewing, and carried it around in my pocket for most of the brewing process - this helped to get it to a good temperature. Finally, I shook the vial multiple times, which eventually blended the contents into a nice, tan liquid.
Unfortunately, I did not realize that the yeast were already creating CO2, which of course meant that the vial was under pressure. When I opened the lid, it fizzed out much like a shaken soft drink can would do, and I lost a small amount of yeast in the process. I'm hoping that it wasn't enough of a loss to matter; the batch did start fermenting quickly, so hopefully, everything will be fine. In the future, however, I will be sure to open the vial directly above my funnel.
As an aside, I brewed the batch while my wife was out shopping with my teenaged daughter. I thought that the entire process smelled very nice, but the girls complained loudly about the smell when they got home. My daughter wanted to know why the house smelled like ferret, whereupon my wife chimed in that she KNEW that she recognized that smell! Needless to say, I disagree that my beer smells like a ferret cage.
Philistines, the both of them.
This Friday, I'll siphon the beer to a smaller carboy for secondary fermentation and clarifying. It'll stay there for about two weeks, at which point I'll make a sugar water solution, pour that in my bottling bucket, and siphon the beer into that bucket. I'll bottle the beer, where the yeast will eat that small amount of sugar to create carbonation in the bottles. After two to three weeks (three, according to my recipe), the beer will be ready to drink.
I can't wait to brew another batch, and I haven't even tasted anything yet!
Tags for this post: first, batch, yeast, liquid, original, gravity, ale, brown, yorkshire, ferret