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So, I need advice how to salvage my beer. I intended to make 5 gallon batch of IPA. I had ingredients for two batches of beer on hand and I accidentally added 3 extra pounds of dry malt extract to my wort. I added the following malts:

  • 1 lb Extra Dry Dark Malt Extract
  • 4 lbs Plain Amber dry Malt Extract
  • 3 lbs Light dry Malt Extract (Added by mistake)
  • White Labs American ale yeast blend

My recipe said to let it ferment for 2 weeks, rack, then let it ferment another 2 weeks. I don't have a hydrometer (I'm a Peace Corps volunteer and I had the ingredients shipped because brewing supplies aren't available in my post country). It has almost been a month now and there are still bubbles clearly rising to the surface of the carboy. What should I do to salvage the beer? My thoughts include giving it more time and diluting the beer with a gallon of water during priming. Advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  • How large is the batch? What recipe were you intending on following? – Herb Tarlek Aug 11 '15 at 7:00
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    Bubbles do not necessarily indicate fermetation. They simply indicate CO2 coming out of solution and there can be several reasons for that. – Denny Conn Aug 11 '15 at 15:58
  • It is a 5 gallon batch. – Adam Aug 12 '15 at 1:25
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You didn't mention it in your question, but I'm assuming that you've made a 5 gallon batch.

When I put those ingredients into Beer Smith, it shows a starting gravity of 1.062, which is perfectly reasonable for an IPA. Let the beer finish fermenting. It will probably take a week or two longer than a lower gravity beer, so be patient. In the end you'll have a beer with slightly higher alcohol content, and slightly more body.

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Since you don't have a hydrometer, it will be hard to tell what's really going on. But likely, what happened is that your fermentation got "stuck". In other words, let's assume the recipe's OG was 1.060. John Palmer estimates that each pound of DME yields 40 points of extract per gallon of water, or about 8 points per 5 gallons. Assuming you did a 5 gallon batch, that means you added 24 extra points. In other words, our hypothetical 1.060 beer is now 1.084.

This really isn't a huge deal, but as you likely used a typical "light" beer yeast as opposed to a more robust "heavy" beer yeast, your fermentation likely stalled between 1.020-1.030. This means your beer will be very sweet and "thick" due to all the residual sugars.

Your options are, as you have mentioned, to dilute the final beer in order to bring down the sugar content per volume. This will also dilute the alcohol content (which may not be a bad thing). Alternatively, you could just drink the beer as-is, maybe blend it with a lighter beer when you serve it (I've done this before, it was actually rather interesting). Finally, you could try purchasing some champagne yeast to finish out the fermentation as well.

Each of these options (except the "do nothing" option) will impact the final flavor of the beer. For better or worse is purely a subjective matter.

To close, it is extremely unlikely that you have "ruined" your beer. The fact that you have any bubbling at all indicates that fermentation did probably occur, meaning alcohol was produced, meaning that most bacteria are likely dead. My recommendation is to try it, see how you like it, then decide what to do from there.

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    You've made a mistake in your math. DME has a potential of 44 points per pound, per gallon. So the 2 extra pounds add 88 points per gallon, or 17.6 points total for a 5 gallon batch. – FishesCycle Aug 11 '15 at 13:59
  • Well, I saw a range given on Palmer's website - I used the lower end of the range. Admittedly I don't really use DME, so i don't have a lot of experience with it. Also, the OP stated he added 3 pounds extra not 2. I don't have a problem making the update to my post though, if you feel that is what's correct. – wesanyer Aug 11 '15 at 14:04
  • There must be some sort of law: when pointing out someone's math error, you'll inevitably make one yourself. So the three extra pounds of DME add a total of (44*3)=132 points of gravity to one gallon of wort. In five gallons, this gives a total of 132/5=26.4 points. – FishesCycle Aug 11 '15 at 17:30
  • Ok you're right. Using my assumption that it's 40 points per pound per gallon, the addition is 24 points not 34 like I listed originally. Do you have any good reason I should go with the 44 points per pound per gallon figure instead of the 40 that I used? – wesanyer Aug 11 '15 at 17:56
  • Also, I used White labs American yeast blend. It says it's for medium to high alcoholic beers on their website. – Adam Aug 12 '15 at 1:29
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Sounds like your OG was in the 1.060-1.065 range, which is fine. Did you taste it? If your fermentation is stuck it will still taste sweet like wort.

I would not add anything, just give it more time. And as others have mentioned, a hydrometer or refractometer will be the only way to know for sure where you are.

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