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So I went to my local brewing store, and got a starter kit. It came with a 7 gallon fermenter, a siphon tube, a floating thermometer, bottle caper, bottle caps, bottle scrubber, and sanitizer.

By the way I have multiple questions. I know most first time brewing experiences are uneasy, but I was hoping someone could make mine slightly easier. I explained to the lady at the brew shop that I wanted to make a blonde ale similar to the one Sierra Nevada makes. She recommended a "Cooper" extract for my first time that would provide a similar beer. The directions say to simply boil it with the recommended amount of water and 1kg of corn sugar.

I did that exactly, then added the recommended amount of cool water to my (plastic) fermenter. I added ice cubes to bring it down to 70 degrees F. Once that was done I had read that it was more effective to "prepare" your yeast, rather than sprinkling it on in powder form.

By "preparing" my yeast, I sanitized a cup, added hot water, let poured the yeast into it, and let it dissolve for 10 minutes. After that I mixed it up, and poured it into the cooled wort.

I closed the lid and added the Air Lock. It has been over 24 hours, and I have not seen any bubbles, although I haven't been checking more than twice a day due to my schedual.

Everything was sanitized might I add. My questions are these. Did I make a mistake somewhere? How important is keeping the fermenting brew between 65 and 75 degrees? and do I need a second fermenter?

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4 Answers 4

You probably just haven't waited long enough yet. Make sure the lid is on tight and wait another 24 hours. Dry yeast and the first time experience tends to take a while for things to start perking. Just be patient. Hot water can be too hot, but as long as it is under 100F you should be OK. Some of the yeast probably didn't survive the shock, but you likely got some in the beer. Its just taking time because they need to now grow up to a sufficient number of cells before the fermentation can begin. Just takes time.

You'll need another vessel at bottling time. Normally, a bucket fermenter with a spigot on it.

Just put the beer is a closet or something where its fairly cool. If its really hot where you live, drape a damp towel over the fermenter and that will help keep it cool some too.

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A lot of good info here, so I'll just throw in my $0.02

Your techniques when starting out will usually not be optimal. Part of this is because the instructions supplied by kits and shop owners are usually oversimplified to make the process less intimidating. That being said, you usually still wind up making beer, it may just not be the best beer :)

The yeast could still be propogating - usually I wait 48 hours with no airlock activity before calling the yeast dead/dormant. Given that you say you might have overheated the yeast, I'd just get another pack and pitch it directly in the wort (and get a few extra packs to keep on hand for emergencies - keep them in the freezer).

Putting ice in the wort to cool it is asking for trouble. Ice can have all sorts of contaminants in it. Topping off with tap water is also a bad idea for the same reason. I advocate full boils (no top off) but when I lived in an apartment and did stovetop brewing, it simply wasn't an option. If you can't move to full boils - do this:

When you are boiling your brewing water, also boil the extra 2-3 gallons you will need to top off with. As soon as that water boils, dump it in your sanitized fermentor bucket and cover it. This way, you have sanitized top off water which will cool down while you proceed with the brew. Alternatively, you can chill this boiled water (covered, in a sanitized container) in the fridge. The goal is to have your top off water sanitized and cool to at least room temp by the time you are done brewing.

Also, to cool your wort, use an ice bath, placing the pot in the ice water, careful to not get any in the wort. As your wort cools, you want to avoid any contact with non-sanitized stuff - adding ice and water is undoing all the work you just did to get sanitary wort! Sure, you can do it 15 times and have no problems, but the one time you have to dump a batch you'll wish you hadn't.

Since you did top off with ice and water and your yeast might be dead, there is a possibility your beer will turn out infected. However, cross your fingers and hope for the best, and NEVER count a beer out until it is done fermenting and you can taste it. Now, I can tell if a beer is headed down the right path, but when I first started I thought every batch was infected because of the weird sights and smells the fermentation throws off.

Relax, don't worry, have a homebrew, and if this batch doesn't turn out ok, try again!

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I really liked the part about good batches smelling funny. The batch I'm conditioning now in my secondary is a tripel, whose yeast during fermentation produced sulfur, thus smelling really bad. If I didn't know this will clear up after a while I may had already thrown the batch away. Patience is a great virtue in homebrewing after all. –  Tetragrammaton Jul 2 '10 at 22:34
    
if you can't do a full boil, why bother with trying to boil the extra water separately when you can buy clean bottled gallons at the grocery store? Is there any reason (apart from the negligible cost) not to? –  theraccoonbrew Sep 21 '10 at 21:40
    
If you're on a municipal water supply you shouldn't have to worry about the sanitation of tap water due to chlorine content and other chemicals added. Ice is a different story however, since the ice's surface is exposed to open air (think of people reaching into your ice box with dirty hands to grab a few cubes). Also, as theraccoonbear said, bottled water should be fine too. If you really need to add ice I would freeze water in sanitary, closed off containers (like a pyrex with a plastic lid), rather than going for the ice maker cubes. –  Room3 Oct 11 '10 at 16:42
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Did I make a mistake somewhere?

Possible reasons for no bubbles: a) The lead of the fermenter is not completely closed, or the airlock not perfectly attached, thus air gets out from somewhere else. b)When you say your poured the yeast into "hot water", how hot was it? If you used water over 80-85 degrees F you could have killed your yeast.

How important is keeping the fermenting brew between 65 and 75 degrees?

Almost every yeast can operate between those temperatures. Remaining there assures you won't have any off-flavours because of temperature. It's not that important though, I think that if you get a few degrees off these borders, the worst thing that can happen to you is to have a more fruity beer (due to ester production) or have a slower fermentation (due to low temperatures). RDWHAHB.

and do I need a second fermenter?

Even if you don't rack to secondary (which is not necessary if you're careful when you move your fermenter), you'll need a second fermenter for your bottling day. Leave your batch in the first fermenter for 4-5 days to complete fermentation, then for another 7-10 days (primary on secondary fermenter, doesn't matter much) to clear up a bit, and the rack to the other bucket, add your priming sugars, and bottle. Cheers!

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0 Ok I definitly over heated the water I put the yeast in, should I open it up and add more yeast? –  Chris Jun 30 '10 at 19:00
    
Most probably there is some live yeast that can populate and ferment your batch. However, while this happens, the yeast produces many off-flavours. I think you should pitch another pack of yeast in the fermenter, after all, even if your beer is slightly overpitched then (which I doubt), it is certainly better than underpitched, you'll most probably end up with a pretty good batch. –  Tetragrammaton Jul 1 '10 at 10:30
    
As for temperatures, keep it under 90*F or you will get fusel alcohol (which means NASTY headaches). Generally, the closer to 65 you can get, the better, but optimal temp depends on the exact yeast strain. I've fermented some batches @ 58 (cal common) and some at 85 (saison). –  Jim Jul 1 '10 at 20:47
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Ahhh yes to rehydrate the yeast youneed the warm water. If you dropped it into boiling water that could be your problem right there. You killed the yeast off

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