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Alright, so this is my first batch where I came up with the recipe instead of using a recipe kit, and something seems to have gone wrong. Here are my brewing notes so you can see exactly what I did:

enter image description here

So, I brought 3 gallons of water up to a boil, then added all 13 pounds of malt extract, which actually almost filled up the 5 gallon kettle. After brewing, I added maybe 1 more gallon of water to the fermenter, then took a gravity reading. (It was a 6 gallon fermenter, but wasn't quite full and had a crap ton of sediment, so I'm guessing I had around 5 gallons) Here is where the first unexpected thing happened - my OG reading was 1.072, which seemed really low, especially since the calculator I used estimated 1.095.

I'm on a time crunch to have this ready for a homebrew beer fest on Feb 25, so I bottled it after 2 weeks in the fermentor. I assumed it would be done fermenting and did not even check to see if the airlock was still bubbling... Which obviously I would go back and change if I could. So we siphon as much beer as we can out of the fermentor, and end up with 3 gallons. Not exactly sure how, but there was so much sediment in the fermentor that it was hard to get clear beer out when we were near the bottom.

This is where I start to worry - we take a gravity reading and it is 1.040. Now I'm a little worried that there are still fermentable sugars in the beer, especially since I didn't check to see if it was still bubblin, and the calculator estimated FG at 1.027.

One more issue - I put in 3/4 cups of priming sugar, which is the amount for 5 gallons, and I only had 3.

So here is my question - should I be worried about my bottles exploding? Also, can you think of any explanations for why my OG was so low? It doesn't make any sense to me. And on the FG... Is there any way that fermentation could be done with it being that high? Thanks for any clarification you can give.

  • off to start my second batch, comment back with what you did and how it turned out :) – DefyGravity Feb 7 '15 at 16:34
  • good luck to you! I will definitely update you guys with what I did and how it turned out. I'm going to do a little more research before I decide. – Ben Strombeck Feb 7 '15 at 16:36
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can't quite read the picture, and opening it in a window and zooming in made it fuzzy. Your final FG of 1.040 is a legitimate starting gravity for some beer. Category 16 judged styles can start @ 1.044 and higher. Jai alai cedar aged IPA clone FG should be around here.

I could kind of make out our yeast, they expect 70% attenuation or so. this calculator has you at 43% attenuation, and 1.027 planned FG only put you @ 61% attenuation and 6% alcohol. Un-fermentables can't cover 20%. I don't think it's done.

#emergency surgery# - you'll have to release some co2 in a few days, recrimp the cap, and do it again until you hit a lower hydro reading. use one bottle as a sample to take a hydro reading to see how often you have to keep doing it.

i'm only one batch in myself. maybe someone else will have a better solution ... or i'm completely wrong and you're fine. but I think you're in trouble, open the brews away from friends.

  • Sorry, I re-uploaded the picture; should be readable now. This is a very interesting idea. It makes perfect sense to me, but seeing as you're only one batch in, I wonder if someone with more experience can comment! – Ben Strombeck Feb 7 '15 at 14:33
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It's great that you're excited about showing off your brew, but my one word answer is: WORRY.

What you have in the bottles today should be as sweet as a coke. It's either full of dead yeast, and might carbonate slowly over a year. And then explode. Or worse yet the yeast is alive and trying to carbonate and will explode soon. If it ever gets near that predicted FG, you've got trouble.

If you bring that to your friends at the brew fest, and you might lose some friends due to explosions, broken glass, beer soaked clothes, etc.

You've got 18 days left, and this beer probably will want to ferment for the whole time. I'd carefully open all the bottles, put them back into a fermenter and re-pitch. Purge the fermenter with CO2 if you can, and hope for the best. Maybe force carb at the last minute, or serve it cask style.

  • +1 for putting all the bottles back in the fermenter. Bottle bombs are at the very least a great hassle to clean up, if not outright dangerous. It is also 99% likely this will start occurring at 3 am and you don't want to point your gun at your wife like Hank did. – Wyrmwood Feb 10 '15 at 21:33
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The beer did not finish fermenting during the first two weeks. This can happen if the yeast was not viable when pitched, or if it was stressed during fermentation. You almost certainly bottled the beer with unfermented malt sugars in it, in addition to the priming sugar that you added. There are two possible scenarios:

  1. The yeast is dead. In this scenario the beer will not carbonate, and you'll end up with flat, sweet beer.

  2. The yeast is alive, but working slowly. In this scenario, the yeast will eventually consume most of the fermentable sugars producing carbon dioxide. Priming sugar typically adds about 2 points of gravity. You missed your target by 13 gravity points. To understand how much CO2 is will be produced, think of it this way: you've got 7.5 times the amount of fermentable sugar in the bottles as is necessary for carbonation. As a consequence, the yeast will produce 7.5 times as much CO2, generating 7.5 times as much pressure in the bottles.

I think there's a good chance you've got some bottle bombs on your hands.

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Depending on how sturdy your bottles are you probably won't need to worry about exploding bottles. I would, however, keep them in a contained container (ie plastic bin) just in case.

Since some funky things went on during this ambitious brew, I would also "rename" the beer. That way people don't compare it to something they might be familiar with. Letting some air escape from the bottles is a great idea - I have done that before with decent results. Just make sure there is a week or so of time after you release so they can condition some more.

You might consider "decanting" the beer if you find it has too much head when you pore them. When all is said an done, I'm sure the beer will taste fine. Just be proud of your first non-kit brew.

That sure is one hell of a recipe!

  • Thanks for weighing in. I have definitely renamed the beer, because it's not even close to Cigar City's Jai Alai. In your batches where you let some air escape, did you consider pasteurizing the bottles instead? (I've heard of people doing this for cider, didn't know if that was a good idea for beer or not) – Ben Strombeck Feb 7 '15 at 16:02
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    Hmmm no, I just aimed at keeping it simple. I'm sure that is a valid option, but I wouldn't mess more with the beer. Just relax and enjoy it. If you do want to pasteurize I would only pasteurize a portion of the beers so you can have a bit of both and compare. Could be a useful experiment! – HoppyKamper Feb 7 '15 at 16:09
  • That's a great idea. I'm going to pasteurize a few and see what happens. The question is when to pasteurize them! I'll keep taking gravity readings and probably do it when the gravity gets to a reasonable level. – Ben Strombeck Feb 7 '15 at 16:19

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