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I'm a newbie brewer currently trying his luck with an irish red ale kit. I've followed the instructions (which weren't complicated since it's a kit), and I've let it brew for about 6 days now (instructions claim 4–6 days to completion in 18–20°C).

First question: The inctructions say the ale should read constantly below 1.014° when it's done, but I measured it to a bit above 1.017° both yesterday and today. I checked the temperature today, and it was 17°C. I don't think I've treated my yeast particularly well temperature-wise; the weather here and my lack of any real temperature control has probably lead to temperatures between 16–22°C (it was probably too warm when I began brewing, and too cool the last couple of days).

So I'm wondering: Should I heat it up to 20°C and let it sit a couple of days to be on the safe side, or should I accept the slightly higher gravity reading and just bottle it?

Second question: I noticed that after the krausen disappeared, there are theese brown "floaters" on the surface (I'll add a picture), almost like some of the dry yeast clumped together. Does this look normal, or did I manage to get an infection on my first attempt at beer brewing? (It doesn't smell off at all, if anything it smells surprisingly sweet, almost wine-ish.)

I'd appreaciate any input. Thanks in advance!

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Edit: As a final update, I thought I'd post how the beer turned out. After leaving the beer alone for quite a while, the gravity remained stable at 1.015°. I've no idea why the FG ended up too high. (Thoughts, anyone?) Anyway, I bottled the beer with carbonation drops and let it sit in my basement for about two weeks before finally tasting it.

The beer turned out pretty good, though a bit too malty. It carbonating nicely, ruled out dead yeast as the culprit for the high FG. Another week later, the beer tasted even better and not as sweet; it seems another week in the bottle did wonders for the taste (patience coming back to bite me in the arse again). It has a nice fruity character, but is still bitter enough to keep things balanced (at least after the third week post bottling). I'd describe it as interesting and refreshing, and it has a pleasing tawny red colour.

All in all, I'm a very happy brewer at the moment, and I look forward to my next batch (a helles lager). For those of you who are interested, I used the St. Peter's Ruby Red Ale kit. Happy brewing, folks!

  • Update: For now I'll just take it up to 19°C and give it a stir to try and get the yeast going, then I'll check the gravity again in a couple of days. And even if it is contaminated, I'll probably not discard it unless someone claims it's dangerous. – David F. B. Jun 8 at 22:53
  • FYI: I'll be posting further updates in the answer's comments below. – David F. B. Jun 10 at 22:45
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    You could edit your question instead of posting comments. Comments may or may not be shown initially, and usually appear in order of votes, not chronologically. – Robert Jun 15 at 2:33
  • Thank you for pointing this out! – David F. B. Jul 14 at 15:36
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That beer definitely needs more time. It's likely that the periods of lower temperature slowed or potentially even halted fermentation, and the sweet smell you describe is probably unfermented sugars in the wort. You just need to warm that brew up a bit (19°C as you've said there is perfect) and wait another couple of days at least. At best, bottling now will give you a sweet, green-tasting beer - and at worst, bottle bombs.

It also doesn't look infected to me - that just looks like standard yeast rafts. If you haven't stirred it already, I'd simply warm it and leave it alone. From the appearance of the brew, the yeast is still suspended and stirring will simply introduce the possibility for oxygenation. If you do stir, try and minimise any splashing (and as hard as it is to resist peeking, try to keep the lid on the fermentation vessel too).

I've seen it said that patience is one of the hardest things for new homebrewers to learn. I don't know about anyone else, but it definitely was for me. Just warm it up, relax, give it a few days (or even a week) and then take another reading. And if you're still concerned about infections, give the sample a smell and taste - if it doesn't smell or taste sour or otherwise off then it's almost certainly fine.

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  • Thanks for the reassurance! You're absolutely right about patience being hard, especially when you're looking forward to your first homebrewed pint. It seems to sit rather stable at 18°C now. I'll leave it alone and check back in a couple of days. Cheers! – David F. B. Jun 9 at 10:17
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    Glad to hear it's stabilised! This is often an encouraging sign that metabolic activity is continuing as the yeast undertake their exothermic work of turning sugars into alcohol. Just bear in mind that this is still at the lower end of your yeasts' preferred range, and so complete fermentation might take a day or two longer - so don't get discouraged if the gravity reading doesn't budge too much in the next couple of days. Let us know how you get on! – Luke Jun 10 at 0:44
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    Update: After two days it's up to 20°C. I'll keep the room cool to keep it from rising any further. I took a gravity sample today, and the beer is now around 1.015°. Gave the sample a whiff and a taste too. It smells a lot less sweet and more like classic beer with a hint of honey(?). The taste was as I would expect from almost flat beer at room temperature; if anything, I'd say it was surprisingly watery. I suppose it'll be better once it's bottled and ready. I'll make a new reading in another couple of days, and hopefully I'll be bottling soon. – David F. B. Jun 10 at 22:39

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