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I just brewed my first ever German Weizen (using True Brew kit) on Saturday (today is Monday) and it's sitting in a plastic 6 gallon bucket (but there's only 5 gallons of it). I have some questions which were not addressed in my generic guide which came with my equipment and kits. I realize some of these questions probably belong on a forum of some sort, but I turn to the StackExchange community for help as I trust the people. My questions are such:

  1. My kit specified the gravity pre-yeast should be 1.049-1.051, when I measured it was 1.041, will this result in a weaker beer?

  2. My equipment featured a 6 gallon plastic bucket and a 5 gallon glass carboy, should I prefer one over the other? Do I need to transfer to secondary fermenter after bubbles really slow down?

    • More specifically, the six gallon bucket I have has 5 gallons of liquid in it, which means it has a gallon of empty space, which is air, is this bad for the brew? Should I minimize the oxygen and just use the carboy?
  3. I like my Weizens with a flavor and aroma of orange, kinda like Blue Moon or Shock Top. How does one achieve this? Do I add orange peel during boiling? or can I add it when transferring to secondary fermenter? Do I need to add anything else, like more yeast?

  4. I have the feeling that I didn't completely sanitize all my equipment (Maybe I missed a spot while cleaning the bucket? maybe I'm just paranoid?) or that I might have been a little careless handling my equipment, will this ruin my brew?

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  1. Yes, a lower original gravity will result in a lower-alcohol final product. However, if this was an extract kit and if you added the correct amount of water, the discrepancy is almost certainly a measurement error. A common mistake is to draw the hydrometer sample without having first mixed the extract thoroughly into the water. This will lead to an observed original gravity that is not representative of the batch as a whole.

  2. For most beers you can do the entire fermentation in the plastic bucket. For strong beers that have an extended fermentation or aging period, transferring to the carboy separates the beer from the trub that fell to the bottom, which impact the flavour over long storage times.

    When using glass carboys there's always the real risk of breakage when lifting or moving the beer. The resulting injuries can be quite serious. If you decide to ferment in glass, you might want to consider keeping the carboy in a milk crate so you can lift it more safely.

    You don't need to worry about the 1 gallon of head-space in the fermentation bucket. The actively fermenting beer will quickly displace the oxygen with CO2. In the early stages of fermentation, when the yeast is multiplying, oxygen is actually beneficial -- a lot of home brewers deliberately oxygenate the wort before adding the yeast.

  3. To get wheat-beer flavour, you need to use wheat-beer yeast. Both WYeast and White Labs offer a number of strains. If you're able to control the fermentation temperature, keeping it near the upper limit for the yeast will increase ester production -- making the beer more fruity.

  4. Only time will tell. My sanitization procedure is pretty sloppy when compared to some of the members of this site, and I've only lost two batches of beer to infection in over 10 years of brewing. Your beer is probably fine, but you'll know for sure one way or another in a week or two.

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    Great answer...the only thing I'd add is that beers you list (Bliue Moon, Shocktop) are not weizens...they are ostensibly witbier. You can certainly add orange to your beer if you like, but that is not typically done with a weizen. – Denny Conn Dec 2 '14 at 16:56
  • @DennyConn , thanks for the comment, I just learned something about blue moon and shocktop, but blue moon markets itself as a belgian-style wheat ale... I thought wheat ale and weizen are same. – SoluableNonagon Dec 5 '14 at 3:29
  • found this thread beeradvocate.com/community/threads/wit-wheat-and-weizen.34029 which explains difference for me – SoluableNonagon Dec 5 '14 at 3:33
  • A weizen is a German style. It uses a yeast that emphasizes banana and clove flavors. A wit is Belgian style that uses a yeast that emphasizes more spicy phenols. Really, the only similarity is that they both use wheat. – Denny Conn Dec 5 '14 at 16:47
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1) 1.041 vs. 1.049 is not a big difference. You might notice the difference but likely won't worry if everything else is in balance. You might taste more hop, since there will be less residual sugar.

2) The bucket is bigger than the carboy to allow for foaming during the first few days of fermentation. But many, many home brewers just go with a carboy and blow-off system from the start (avoiding the bucket) that allows the foam (and hop oils and other gunk) to just flow out of the carboy.

BUT: If all you have are the 6 gal. bucket and 5 gal. carboy, then start with the bucket and do your racking into the carboy. You will need to rack at least once anyway, so the carboy can be your secondary fermenter, yes.

OXYGEN: not a worry during fermentation, since the CO2 being generated prevents any air/oxygen from touching the top of your green beer, regardless of headspace in bucket or carboy.

3) Yeast is irrelevant when adding flavourings. The orange flavour you want is actually a combination of orange peel and orange juice. Grate the peels of two or three oranges (avoiding going into the 'pith' -- very bitter) and add 300 ml of orange juice to 200 mL of water for 30-60 seconds. When cooled, add to your brew when fermentation is already underway.

4) Only the final brew will tell the tale of proper sanitation. It depends on the kind of stain left behind and whether it came into significant contact with a lot of your wort for an extended period. Sanitize more diligently next time!

Once, when I was bottling while my daughter helped, she sneezed. The bottle we were bottling later "overflowed" when I opened it, but everything else was fine because I had caps loosely placed on the remaining empty bottles. So it's hard to know what is going to be attacked by bacteria until you open the bottle.

Sanitize/spray scrupulously with 99% isopropyl alcohol on exteriors (allowing time to evaporate) and use Star-San for interior cleanliness (inside carboys and tubes). Don't talk, laugh, or even breath when directly above openings (bottles, carboys). Good luck!

  • Thank you for your answer. That clears some things up for me. – SoluableNonagon Dec 5 '14 at 3:29
  • Are you saying that yeast is irrelevant to flavour? Many of the best beers in the world get their characteristic flavour from a particular strain or strains of yeast. – FishesCycle Dec 5 '14 at 14:39
  • What I meant was that the quantity of yeast does not have to be adjusted to account for flavouring (orange peel, etc.), which I think was part of the original question. You are right that yeast types are determining factors for creating the correct flavour profiles of specific beer styles. – tinypriest Dec 6 '14 at 13:35

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