Advice needed: bottle or scrap?

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by Brewer #237949, Jul 18, 2019.

  1. Brewer #237949

    Brewer #237949 New Member

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    I bought one of those 5 gallon starter kits about 3 years ago and never got around to opening it until a few weeks ago. The ingredients supplied for a pale ale (1 lb crushed grain, 6 lbs LME, 1 oz hop pellets, 11g yeast packet) were clearly old, but I thought I'd give it a shot and brew a batch anyways to try it out; nothing was visibly or noticeably spoiled. I followed the recipe and steps very close, monitored my boil temp, cooled the wort with a wort chiller to ~70°F and aerated with a large whisk for several minutes before pitching yeast, and sanitized everything with Star San. Ambient temp in my basement where I put the bucket ranges from 66°-70°F, which seems to be ideal for fermentation based on the directions. I never noticed any consistent activity in the S-shaped airlock, other than the water being "pushed" unevenly toward the exterior vent side for several days, which means there was probably at least some fermentation going on. I popped it open after 1 week for a gravity reading and there was definitely some signs of krausen around the edges, but it had completely subsided after only 1 week (is that normal?). Gravity readings below:

    OG: 1.035 (recipe said OG should be somewhere around 1.040-1.044, with a target gravity of 1.010-1.014).
    Gravity @ 1 week: 1.020 (good sign, right?! It means that it is, in fact, fermenting?)
    Gravity @ 2.5 weeks: 1.018 (definitely slowed down, and quite a ways from target for a 3 week fermentation)
    I'm going to take another gravity reading at 3 weeks (which is in 2-3 days) to see what, if any, progress it has made, but I'm I'm not confident it's going anywhere.

    My questions:
    1. Was I doomed from the start using old ingredients? Particularly the yeast?
    2. At this point, is re-pitching with fresh yeast out of the question?
    3. Once fermentation has clearly stalled based on the gravity readings, should I bottle it anyways, even if it hasn't hit the target gravity? Are there any consequences to priming and bottling beer that hasn't completely fermented?
    4. Should I just cut my losses and scrap the batch?
    I bought fresh ingredients for an Oktoberfest that I'd like to brew this weekend so it's ready for the fall season, so unless there's a great chance of my current pale ale making a recovery, I'm thinking I'll either push my luck and bottle it anyways, or dump it since I'm going to need the bucket for my next batch.

    Any advice is greatly appreciated!
     
  2. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    Let it go and see what you get. Likely a dumper - a kit that old has very little viable yeast left, the hops are old, the grains stale. But let it go unless you need the equipment, it'll be a learning experience on old ingredients!
     
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  3. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    The only ingredients that will be substantially impacted by the extreme age are the crushed grain, the hops and the yeast. Those yeast packets can last a long, long time if stored reasonably so there was probably a high enough cell count to handle a 5 gallon batch of 1.035 wort. The hops will be pretty stale even if stored in the freezer but will only affect flavor and not efficiency or attenuation. The grain may throw off the flavor and won't add much to the efficiency but it was a small percentage anyway. The LME should be fine in terms of sugar content but will probably have developed an "inky" flavor that won't make a great beer.
    Depending on the yeast strain (I'm guessing S-04 based on the description) it could easily have dropped clear and stalled out. I'd swirl the whole thing around vigorously and let it sit a few more days to see if it restarts. There's still some residual sugar and you may have bottle bombs. Also, it may not hurt to throw some new yeast in the bottling bucket when you bottle to be sure that you have viable yeast for carbonation.
    I agree with Nosy that you'll benefit from the experience even if you don't get a great beer. Any Oktoberfest kit you get is likely to have an ale yeast for fermentation and will finish out in a matter of weeks so you needn't be in a hurry to brew it before the fall.
     
  4. Brewer #237949

    Brewer #237949 New Member

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    Thanks for your insight and the detailed response!

    When you say "swirl the whole thing around vigorously" do you mean just pick the bucket up and swirl it, or open it and stir it with a sanitized spoon or something? Isn't there risk of oxygenating the beer at this point and ruining it for sure?

    FWIW, the yeast was Muntons Active Brewing Yeast (not sure the packet said anything more specific than that).[​IMG]

    Also, not that it matters for this topic, but the Oktoberfest I'm doing next isn't a kit, it's kind of my own recipe/creation/experiment and I will be using a lager yeast and lagering it for 2 months, which is why I need the time. My calendar says it will be ready around Oct. 12 if I brew this weekend. It's a total shot in the dark, but I'm in a bit of an experimenting phase right now :D
     
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  5. 56 Firedome

    56 Firedome Active Member

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    My suggestion is to dump the Old Ingredient batch & start fresh with the Octoberfest. You won't be impressed with the resulting batch & why waste your time. You won't learn anything by bottling the old batch & there's a better than fair chance that adding fresh yeast to the Wort would result in foamy beer or worse Bottle Bombs. The only thing you would learn from this is "Don't use old ingredients". Dump it & get on with a batch that's more likely to be a success.
     
  6. clementshomebrew

    clementshomebrew New Member

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    I had a similar experience when I started brewing in 2011. This is a great learning opportunity. I suggest trying 2 things:
    1. Take a gravity reading. Assuming you took an Original gravity reading, you will know if the yeast is working AND if the beer is down to an acceptable level. If it is not fermenting, grab some dry yeast like US04 or US05 and add it to the fermentor.
    2. Once fermented out... taste it! If it tastes infected, you'll know. If you don't like the taste, dump it or give it to a friend with a still. They can turn it into liquor ;)
    Best of luck, Cheers
    http://www.youtube.com/user/ClementsHomebrew
     
  7. Mase

    Mase Well-Known Member

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    I’ve had some rocky brew days and fermentations that were equally as rough. But I took notes to learn from and to date I’ve not had a dumper. I would suggest you don’t dump it. @Nosybear and @J A are a very experienced brewers and know what they’re saying... and since you’ve asked for advise, I’d take their advise and wait it out.
     
  8. BOB357

    BOB357 Well-Known Member

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    Unless it was stored in a fairly cool place, the viability of the yeast was likely very low, meaning an under pitch. One of the common problems associated with under pitching is poor attenuation. I wouldn't expect much more drop in gravity. After that amount of time, unless stored frozen, the hops would have been better placed in the toilet bowl. The grain, 3 years after being crushed, the chickens might eat it. This is one of those circumstances where the extract is probably in better condition than the rest.

    All of that being said, you've invested the time. Why not wait it out, package and see what you end up with. Worst case scenario, you wasted some more time and bottle caps. If it turns out as I expect it will, you could give some of it to a buddy that's always mooching free beer :)
     
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  9. Ward Chillington

    Ward Chillington Well-Known Member

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    I say rack a 6 pack...ya know...for SCIENCE!
     
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  10. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    If you leave it closed and just swirl to get the yeast back in suspension you won't risk anything. If it's in a bucket rather than a carboy, there's a little more risk of O2 but not much. That Munton's yeast is pretty much bullet-proof and even if it's old it may have simply done all that's going to be done with that beer.
    If you really need your equipment then don't waste time. If you'd like to try to salvage this batch, just go to Walmart and get a food-safe white bucket and lid for less around 7 bucks and carefully transfer the beer and plenty of the yeast trub to a new bucket to sit for an extra week while you get the O'fest started. The racking will restart the fermentation if it's going to happen and if it doesn't, you're ready to bottle.
    56Firedome is right that you won't likely be impressed with the old ingredient beer but if you want to go through the process for the experience, it'll be drinkable, at least.
     

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