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Just started, so my question is very basic. I got Coopers Lager Kit, did everything by instructions, temperature has been stable at 22-24C but gravity doesn't go down. OG was 1.039, dropped to 1.020 on the 4th day and stays at that level for several days (today is 10th day of fermenting with very little bubbling). Tastes very bitter. What is wrong? Should I just bottle?

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I wonder why it tastes bitter? If it's this kit, it should only be 21 IBUs, which is not very bitter at all. Did you dilute the malt extract as per the instructions? If you added too little water, the bitterness would be much more pronounced. –  Tobias Patton Oct 15 '12 at 22:04

2 Answers 2

1.020 is quite a high final gravity. It sounds like your fermentation is stuck. I would swirl the fermenter to resuspend the yeast (without introducing any air) and see if fermentation resumes. If that fails, then I would buy more of the same yeast that you originally pitched, if it's dry yeast rehydrate it in 90-100F water (32-38C) for 15 minutes, then add it to the fermetner. If you used liquid yeast, make a starter, and when the starter is bubbling fiercely, add it to the fermenter.

If you didn't make a starter or didn't rehydrate dry yeast, high final gravities are frequently what you get.

Some kits are intended to have higher final gravities, but you got less than 50% apparent attenuation. You should expect at least 60% and probably more like 70%.

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upvote for the answer, but either BYO or Zymurgy did a controlled study of whether rehydration actually does anything at a homebrew scale. The results were that it didn't....I still do it though if using dry yeast :-) –  Pietro Oct 16 '12 at 16:06
    
Upvoted, but I think part of this answer is a bit misleading. With such a low gravity, if you're using a fresh package of yeast, and good oxygenating you should have enough viable yeast cells to ferment out. Personally, I think telling someone who's new to home brewing to make a starter is over complicating things (unless, of course, they're making a high gravity beer). I think most beginners benefit from keeping the process simple and removing steps that may not have a significant impact on the final product. I'm sure other people have different opinions, and I'm curious to hear them. –  roto Oct 18 '12 at 14:36

I would be more worried about the bitter taste, was it bitter or acid as in vinegar? As Korz already said it could be a stuck fermentation. I think the yeast packets in the beer kits are not under ideal conditions most of the time and stuck fermentations should not be very uncommon. Swirl or re-pitch in that case. But an infection could also leave your beer in that state, you should smell and taste it, just make sure to use sanitized equipment to taste it or you could end worse than what you started with :D.

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I've heard a couple of newer brewers who sneak a taste out of the fermenter describe the taste as bitter, and I can also personally relate. I think it's a product of the temperature and the lack of carbonation. Cold dulls the sense of taste, and carbonation changes the sense of taste in its own way. I think the final beer often doesn't taste as bitter as the work-in-progress. –  mac Oct 28 '12 at 22:08

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