First brew questions from a novice

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shd

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(Apologies in advance...long first thread !)

My good lady wife has treated me to my first ever home brew kit from Home Brew Online as you will see from my attached photos
Additionally, i have a 2 x can St Peters Ruby Red as my starter which i'm looking to start in the next week

Although being excited to start during the very hot summer that we had, my earliest bit of reading up taught me that temperature is VERY important along with a number of other things too such as cleanliness, sanitising, water and patience to name but a few so i held off until now
So, rather than rambling on further and to set the scene, i come in search of some pointers to the following questions which are hopefully in some sort of chronological order for brewing, in the hope of some valuable input from the more experienced home brewers out there

Cleaning and sanitising - As you can see from the photos, i have some Brew Safe which states "cleaner/sanitiser and no-rinse" so i'm good here i think as as you see, my kit is all new so no stubborn grime. My plan is to source some cloths that don't breakdown or shed fibres and remind myself "cleaning and sanitising is crucial" for everything coming into contact with the brew !

Water - used twice in the brewing process...for cleaning and for the brew itself
My plan is to use standard tap water at the mentioned temperature for the Brewsafe stage only as reading in the "How to Brew" book by John Palmer, tap water can be high in minerals and chlorine and ours is pretty nasty tasting at times
For the brew itself, as per the book, i plan to use low mineral/bottled spring water from the supermarket (yet to investigate and decide which) so any advice and direction is appreciated here please

Preparing the brew - i've watched a number of youtubes and it looks simple enough. 6 pints of boiling water (i'll use my bottled water), get ALL the malt extract out of the cans (i'll clean and sanitise the outside of the cans also before starting), mix thoroughly and then add cold water up to the desired up to 40 pints. I've read air is important so pour from a height and continue to mix
I'll make sure to fill my nostrils with the smell of my first brew !! :)

Air lock - again as you see, i have one of the traditional water air locks but have again seen use of a tube into a jug of water instead. Is this just personal preference or for some other beneficial reason ?

Location - so i'm banished to using the garage to leave my brew to ferment. Although the wife bought me the kit, she doesn't want the house smelling of it !

Temperature - is MEGA important for a successful brew as i understand it and as you see, i have one of the stick on type thermometers. Are these accurate and any good ?
I have one of the heat mats but i was considering on the advise of a friend, to buy a builders bucket, heat water with a fish tank heater and drop the brew bucket in there which would keep the outside temperature of the bucket more consistent. That said, I've read a lot about that the temperature of the wort increases when its fermenting which again leads me back to my question about whether stick on thermometers are ok, or i should be looking to get an Inkbird and take a temperature from inside the wort by drilling a hole in the lid of my bucket and use a rubber seal ?
I am also considering making a box to drop over my brew and line it with celotex or polystyrene to try to keep the temperature consistent

Obviously, i wont know what the temperature will be at this point immediately after adding the cold water but the St Peters box says it needs to be 18-20c so do i assume i either wait for it to cool or heat it up to 18-20c before adding the yeast ?
And whilst i'm on the point of temperature.....18-20c.....does it really need to be kept within 2 degrees c, really ?
And finally on this point, should i take a hydrometer reading before adding the yeast as my start point i assume ?

Yeast yeast glorious yeast - John's book mentions not to just sprinkle the yeast on the top, but to rehydrate first. Again, from experience, is this believed to be extremely beneficial from the more experienced brewers out there, or perfectly acceptable to just sprinkle on top for a first attempt ?

Back to gravity - how frequently should i be testing the gravity....daily, more regular until i reach the desired constant < 1014 ?
And still on gravity, if i've got my brew in a builders bucket, i assume that i shouldn't be moving it around frequently to take gravity reading samples ?

Apologies for the ramble and if this appears a little disjointed but any pointers that anyone out there can give me for some of the questions above are much appreciated
I'm so keen to get cracking but just feel i have a number of unanswered questions still and i'm sure i'll have more so am holding off before the big day arrives !

thanks,
shd
 

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You seem well researched:)

I think most started with no temp control with kits , but yes I used a builders bucket and aquarium heater after while. You will probably hit your pitching temp once you have added your extract and boiling water and topped up with cold water. Yes surface stuck temp strips are fine to start and give you a fair indication.

Don't worry about taking lots of gravity readings ..leave it alone for two weeks and then test on two consecutive days qnd if the readings the same then it's finished. also don't be too worried if it's finished a couple of points higher then the kit says..

Biggest tip. Enjoy it you will make good beer and improve your technique each time.
 
Last edited:
My brew temps during autumn and winter can be down to 16C, generally around 18-22C. No issue. Though it is recommended to keep it stable, but realistically one or two degree up and down won't make much difference to the end result.
 
My temperature control is whatever my house central heating supplies to the utility room during the colder months.

One thing I would look at if you are using tap water is simple water treatment to add 1/2 a campden tablet to precipitate out any chlorine (it's mentioned in several threads)
 
Yes take a hydrometer reading before adding your yeast so you can calculate the final ABV.

For airlock you can use the one you have filled with some sanitiser. The other method is what I use which is a long tube into a bottle of sanitiser. That’s because sometimes fermentation is very vigorous and yeast rise up through the airlock and blocks it up. A long blow off tube results in less mess from that. You also don’t get the sanitiser getting sucked into your beer when taking a hydrometer sample, which you do with an airlock unless you remove it first.
 
When fermenting, the yeast will form a head ("krausen") on the top of the beer. Depending on which yeast it is, it can be a few inches thick. Some fermenters don't have enough space for this, and that's where you see the blow off tube.

Your fermentation bucket has plenty of space, so the normal airlock will be fine, as braumeister says.

Advice  used to be to rehydrate the dried yeast in water before pitching into your wort. But that has changed in the last few years and the manufacturers advice is that it isn't necessary anymore.

Temperature is important, but you don't have to be super critical about it. The beer will change temperature by 2-3 degrees during fermentation anyway just by metabolic heat, so don't fret if it wanders a bit.
 
You seem well researched:)

I think most started with no temp control with kits , but yes I used a builders bucket and aquarium heater after while. You will probably hit your pitching temp once you have added your extract and boiling water and topped up with cold water. Yes surface stuck temp strips are fine to start and give you a fair indication.

Don't worry about taking lots of gravity readings ..leave it alone for two weeks and then test on two consecutive days qnd if the readings the same then it's finished. also don't be too worried if it's finished a couple of points higher then the kit says..

Biggest tip. Enjoy it you will make good beer and improve your technique each time.
thanks rwilts
i'm of the mindset that if i'm going to do something i try to do it properly
i think my thought about the aquarium heater was its easier to heat up and keep constant rather than trying to cooldown which at this time of year is unlikely
i haven't read the instructions for the heat pad as yet but recall reading somewhere that they operate a couple of degrees above the existing ambient temperature...is that correct ?
if so, then it goes without saying that if we have a warm day, it could increased past the ideal mentioned fermentation temp of 18-20

"enjoy it"....i absolutely intend to !!!

thanks for the tips and reply
 
I have always just sprinkled the dry yeast on top and never had any problems with that method.
thanks bum chin

as this is my first attempt, i have to say that was my initial thoughts and see how it goes
its clear to me even at this early stage of home brewing, there are a million and 1 things that can be tweaked so i don't want to burn them all up on my first go.....where the fun gonna be in the future ! wink...

thanks for the reply
 
My brew temps during autumn and winter can be down to 16C, generally around 18-22C. No issue. Though it is recommended to keep it stable, but realistically one or two degree up and down won't make much difference to the end result.
thanks Klaus
do you brew in your main house or in an outbuilding or garage ?
as i say, i'm banished to the garage.....at least for the first attempt
 
My temperature control is whatever my house central heating supplies to the utility room during the colder months.

One thing I would look at if you are using tap water is simple water treatment to add 1/2 a campden tablet to precipitate out any chlorine (it's mentioned in several threads)
thanks for the reply jof

yeh i saw mention of campden tablets but was drawn to the bottled water due to the mention of the low mineral counts also which i guess the campden tablets doesn't get rid of
obviously buying bottled water adds to the cost but something to consider in the future if i want to remain with severn trent tap water

thanks for the reply !
 
Yes take a hydrometer reading before adding your yeast so you can calculate the final ABV.

For airlock you can use the one you have filled with some sanitiser. The other method is what I use which is a long tube into a bottle of sanitiser. That’s because sometimes fermentation is very vigorous and yeast rise up through the airlock and blocks it up. A long blow off tube results in less mess from that. You also don’t get the sanitiser getting sucked into your beer when taking a hydrometer sample, which you do with an airlock unless you remove it first.
thanks for the reply braumeister
what would cause a vigorous fermentation....would that be a particular recipe, too much heat, other reason ???
thanks for the tip re: the airlock getting sucked down into the beer and so i need to remove briefly......i had no idea of that !
also, that you put sanitiser in the airlock either instead of water.....thanks again for the tips !
 
When fermenting, the yeast will form a head ("krausen") on the top of the beer. Depending on which yeast it is, it can be a few inches thick. Some fermenters don't have enough space for this, and that's where you see the blow off tube.

Your fermentation bucket has plenty of space, so the normal airlock will be fine, as braumeister says.

Advice  used to be to rehydrate the dried yeast in water before pitching into your wort. But that has changed in the last few years and the manufacturers advice is that it isn't necessary anymore.

Temperature is important, but you don't have to be super critical about it. The beer will change temperature by 2-3 degrees during fermentation anyway just by metabolic heat, so don't fret if it wanders a bit.
gonzo....thanks for the reply and setting my mind at ease re: airlock and rehydrating the yeast and temperature
one less job not rehydrating

thanks for your valuable input also.....i think i'm nearly ready to have my first attempt !!!
 
thanks for the plethora of replies so far from so many.....much appreciated

i feel i'm in safe hands already !!! athumb..acheers.:beer1:
 
If you just want to make good beer, and you aren't too concerned about predictability or consistency of results, then you dont need to worry much about most things.

You do need to make sure that everything is clean and sanitised, and that there is no chlorine or chloramine in your water. Beyond that you can make good beer even when things vary quite a bit from the ideal.

+1 to the comment about not rehydrating dried yeast - just sprinkle it on.

By all means try to get things like temperature 'just right', but don't worry if it goes adrift. Just keep notes, which you will find helpful in future.

Cheers!
 
thanks for the reply braumeister
what would cause a vigorous fermentation....would that be a particular recipe, too much heat, other reason ???
thanks for the tip re: the airlock getting sucked down into the beer and so i need to remove briefly......i had no idea of that !
also, that you put sanitiser in the airlock either instead of water.....thanks again for the tips !
Yes good luck in your first attempt, with all the equipment you have and what you know, you should be fine. My first brew was a kit like yours and I didn’t know anything and just followed the instructions and it turned out ok. I have also since been banished to the garage though :)

Regarding vigorous fermentation, in terms of a lot of yeast forming on top (krausen), I think this depends on the type of yeast used. Could be some other factors too, but some yeasts seem to have bigger krausen than others.
 
Welcome to the forum.

Just a tip. You may want to use slightly less boiling water say 3 or 4 litres to mix the malt. Then top up the fermenter to say 35/36 litres. Check the temp and top up the remainder with hot or cold as required to hit the pitching temp. On my first brew I followed the instructions to a tee and overshot the pitching temp quite a bit. I have to leave overnight to cool.
 
In terms of the yeast. I rehydrated just to see last week. I’m doing a lot of cider at present.
The 5 gallon container contained juice from the same apples as the week before.
There was a marked difference.
I have no trouble with just sprinkling though.
I just wonder if it would still be advisable in colder conditions.
 
If you just want to make good beer, and you aren't too concerned about predictability or consistency of results, then you dont need to worry much about most things.

You do need to make sure that everything is clean and sanitised, and that there is no chlorine or chloramine in your water. Beyond that you can make good beer even when things vary quite a bit from the ideal.

+1 to the comment about not rehydrating dried yeast - just sprinkle it on.

By all means try to get things like temperature 'just right', but don't worry if it goes adrift. Just keep notes, which you will find helpful in future.

Cheers!
Thanks OFAP for the reply
 
Welcome to the forum.

Just a tip. You may want to use slightly less boiling water say 3 or 4 litres to mix the malt. Then top up the fermenter to say 35/36 litres. Check the temp and top up the remainder with hot or cold as required to hit the pitching temp. On my first brew I followed the instructions to a tee and overshot the pitching temp quite a bit. I have to leave overnight to cool.
Jason...good call !
I think i'll invest in a good food quality thermometer and monitor as i add the water
 
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