Recently brewed my first beer, and wanted to share some mistakes.

Discussion in 'Beginners Brewing Forum' started by ihideinyoursocks, Jun 14, 2020.

  1. ihideinyoursocks

    ihideinyoursocks New Member

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    Hey folks. I recently brewed my first real beer (not counting terrible attempts made back in college with no research, and using plastic milk jug fermenters with balloons duct taped to the top in place of airlocks). I opened the first bottle last Saturday. So I thought I would stop by and share some of the bigger mistakes I made along the way, and I finally have time to do a proper write up. Hopefully this might help someone else before they make the same mistakes I did. Any advice on how to not make similar mistakes next time would be great.

    First some background. I made an oatmeal stout with a recipe made by Ballast Point. They provide a pdf pf it here if anyone is interested in downloading. https://ballastpoint.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Oatmeal-Stout-Extract-Recipe.pdf If not then here are the basics:

    Batch size: % gallons

    Ingredients:
    Fermentables
    • 6 lb Golden Light Dried Malt Extract (DME)
    Steeping Grains
    • 1.5 lb British crystal 70-80L
    • 1 lb British chocolate
    • 1 lb Flaked oats (do not mill)
    • 0.5 lb Roasted barley
    Hop Additions
    • 60 min: 2 oz East Kent Golding (4.8% AA¹)
    Yeast
    • WLP 004: Irish Ale Yeast
    Ideal fermentation temperature: 65-68F
    Additives (Optional)
    • Clarifier: 1 tsp Irish Moss or 1 tablet Whirlfloc
    • Yeast Nutrient: ½ tsp White Labs (½ tsp/gal Biotin)

    Target Statistics:
    OG: 1065
    Final Gravity: 1.020
    EST % ABV: 6.8%
    IBUs: 26

    Now onto what I did wrong. Lets start with attempt one. I followed the recipe as best I could, with cleaned and sanitized equipment. I think everything was going well, except for a few mistakes that I made again in attempt two and will detail later, and I ended up with a good wort. A wort that I then transferred in a five gallon fermenter. After all, its a five gallon wort, so a five gallon fermenter is the correct size, right? Boy, was I wrong. Sadly I did not learn that until to days later when I woke up, checked the beer and found about a third of it coating the walls and ceiling of the empty closet I had it in to ferment.

    So after cleaning it was on to attempt two. This time I was heating my water and had finished milling my specialty grain only to realize I had somehow forgotten to order any hops. At this point the wife and I were quarantined at home, thanks rona, so I couldn't run out to the brewing supply shop to buy more. So off to the internet to order more, and wait I went.

    When the hops finally arrived a week later it was finally time for the third, and mostly successful, attempt. I say mostly, because I still made some of the same mistakes as attempt one, just with a six and a half gallon carboy, and the beer stayed in it this time.

    I first messed up during the boil. I now know, about dimethyl sulfide. I wish I had know about it back in May on brew day. I am sure most you can guess what that means; I had the lid on the brew kettle during the entire boil. So the has a bit of a kale flavor to it. Thankfully the taste is quite subtle. So it doesn't ruin the beer, just makes it less good than it could have been.

    Major mistake two happened while chilling the wort. I was using thermometer attached through the side the kettle to measure temperature, and an ice bath to chill. When the thermometer read 70°F I attached my sanitized tubing to the kettle's ball valve and started to drain the wort into the fermenter. As it drained I noticed the temperature on the thermometer start to rise rapidly. I hadn't stirring as it cooled, so the wort above the level of the ice bath never cooled enough. This meant that some wort that was still over 100°F made it into the fermenter. Thankfully I stopped to much from going in and continued started chilling it again.

    Mistake three isn't very big, but in lurking here I have seen it mentioned a few times so it seems like a good idea to talk about it. I measured my original gravity at 1.060. The target OG is 1.065. I not really sure that 0.005 points off from the target is really that bad, especially for someone new at this. But what seems more important is that the 1.060 I measured is not accurate. My hydrometer is calibrated at 60°F, and I know the temperature of the wort was higher than that. The trouble is, that do to my mistake when chilling the wort, and the fact that I don't have a thermometer for the fermenter, means that I don't know what temperature the wort was. So I have no clue what my OG actually was, other than it was somewhere above 1.060.

    As for mistake four, that is really just a matter of convenience. After two weeks in the fermenter, and four days of stable gravity reading at 1.020, I decided to bottle. At this point though, I did not have a bottling wand. It seemed like a needless expense. I have seen the error in that thinking. After prepping my priming sugar (I used brown sugar because I like like brown sugar in oatmeal, so why not in an oatmeal stout) using the calculator from Northern brewer I was able to rack the beer to a bottling bucket, with a spigot, just fine. And after letting it settle for a while, I started pouring the beer into bottles through tubing into the bottles. That was extremely difficult to control. And it resulted in the bottles being inconstantly filled. At least my wife was smart enough to insist I put a baking sheet under the bottles or I would have spilled beer all over the place when I filled a couple of the bottles too much. Moral of this mistake, either get a bottle filler wand, or a smart wife.

    I also ended up with enough beer to only fill the last bottle half way. I decided to cap the half filled bottle and use it to test the carbonation before opening any of the full bottles. Doing so was mistake number 5. I didn't realize at the time that the extra oxygen in the bottle could result in over carbonation and potentially result in a bottle bomb. I got lucky once again that it didn't explode on me. I only learned about the chance that it might the same day I put the bottle in the fridge after two weeks of bottle conditioning to test it out. When I had it nice and cold, I went to open the bottle. The over pressurization from the extra CO2 shot the cap right out of my hand. I am not completely certain why, but that bottle also had a lot stronger kale like flavor from the DMS than any of the of the other bottles. I suspect that is either from oxygenation directly, or the CO2. I haven't been able to find a real answer though, so if anyone know I would appreciate it.

    Even with all of the mistakes, thanks to lurking here and reading all of your posts, plus watching a bunch of videos on youtube, and reading how to on many different sites I think I have a passable first real beer. I do think that if I use this recipe again I would add more flaked oats. But other than that, and that subtle kale like taste, I am happy with this beer.
     
  2. Craigerrr

    Craigerrr Well-Known Member

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    Those first handful of batches sure are fun!
    Advice for not repeating mistakes, is keep notes as you go. However, you aren't learning anything if you don't make any mistakes!
     
  3. ihideinyoursocks

    ihideinyoursocks New Member

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    I really should have taken notes as I went along. This site seems to have some great tools for record keeping though.
     
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  4. Craigerrr

    Craigerrr Well-Known Member

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    I write things down as I go on the printed recipe, and have kept a record of every batch in a binder. Next brew will be #42, the binder is getting kinda full:eek:
     
  5. Herm_brews

    Herm_brews Well-Known Member

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    Yes, keep notes, and refer back to them often. I started in a little journal book, and have since upgraded to a nice notebook gifted by my wife. Record everything about your process, any observations you make, random thoughts, philosophical meanderings pertaining to beer, whatever. Keep a record, you will be better for it.
     
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  6. Zambezi Special

    Zambezi Special Well-Known Member

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    Hey, you got a nice drinkable beer, so well done :)
    Some of your mistakes are very recognisable. Some, I managed to avoid.

    I too keep records.
    I print or write out the recipe, mark what I have done and what has changed and then move to a binder.

    Good luck with your next attempt and keep us posted of your adventures
     
  7. RayZa Home Brews

    RayZa Home Brews New Member

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    Indeed it has great tools and advice. I had an entire file with recipe, checklists note taking sheets and brewing steps to assist me with my very first brew a week ago.

    It felt like a very pleasant practical test / exam. Started at 11am finished all steps at 6.45pm. Was an awesome experience though.
     
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  8. Hawkbox

    Hawkbox Well-Known Member

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    I am not very reliable with my notes, but they are a good idea. I laughed pretty hard when I saw you painted your closet. I did that to the ceiling of my brew bench once too so you're in mediocre company. ;)
     
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  9. ihideinyoursocks

    ihideinyoursocks New Member

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    Right where I belong.
     

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