1 Posted: Monday, September 11, 2017 4:48 PM

Hello,
I'm new to home-brewing. I've just brewed my 4th & 5th batch last week (the 4th of september) & have run into a potential issue that I'm hoping people here can help me resolve.
I've brewed two batches in two seperate FVs on the same day (filled to the 22L mark). Ingredients were the same in each apart from the extracts; one was a coopers lager, the other a homebrand lager.
I used 1kg of dextrose in each & made a tea with some steeped hops, rice syrup (to up the alcohol content a little) & a little nutmeg which I shared equally between the two. I mixed well, waited until the wort cooled to 14 degrees then pitched a packet of saflager yeast (W-34/70) into each. They've been kept together at the same temperature (around 10-12 degrees). It's now been exactly a week and it seems to me that one of them isn't fermenting as there is no CO2 being released through the airlock (the other started releasing CO2 consistently two days after brewing). I've checked and it seems completely airtight. I come to this conclusion as when compressing the FV the only way air can escape or re-enter is through the airlock.
I haven't checked the gravity reading yet. I suppose that would give me some idea whether or not fermentation is occurring or not. Do you have any advice? Should I pitch another pack of yeast?
Any advice much appreciated

2 Posted: Monday, September 11, 2017 5:15 PM

Hi Coolman, welcome to the forum.

You answered your own question mate, get the hydrometer out and see whats been happening


Cheers,
Hoppy

3 Posted: Monday, September 11, 2017 9:56 PM

If I had a dollar for every time someone got panicky because the airlock wasn't bubbling…

I can't imagine why it wouldn't be fermenting unless the pack of yeast was all dead for some reason, but yes take a gravity reading. Look at the brew as well, if there's foam on top and condensation on the underside of the lid then it's fermenting, regardless of what the airlock is doing or not doing. Ignore the airlock, they're not very good indicators of fermentation. Trust your hydrometer because it will tell you what's going on.

I don't think compressing the FV indicates much at all to be honest. I used to use an airlock with my FV and it never bubbled, ever. Either the lid seal or the grommet weren't airtight. But compressing the FV made it bubble, even with the non airtight seals. If your brew is indeed fermenting then you have a leaky fermenter, but don't worry about it, the beer will still be fine - I've been using mine with the lid backed off slightly with no airlock for 3 or 4 years without issue.

I also think you'd get a better flavored beer by reducing the dextrose down to about 300g and using 1kg of dried malt with the kits. Using lots of dextrose like that makes the beer pretty thin and watery; if that's your taste then fair enough but yeah, might be worth trying the kg dry malt and bit of dex to compare at least.

Cheers

Kelsey

4 Posted: Wednesday, September 13, 2017 9:21 PM

Thank you both for the response and advice. After taking a hydrometer reading and testing more thoroughly I found that yes, the FV is not completely airtight. So all is well that ends well. It's also good to know that there's no need to go replacing o rings.

And thanks for the recommendation RE switching the sugar content. Had my first taste of brew 3 last night (which was the first brew I made using 1kg of dextrose) & you are right, it tastes pretty watery… it's a bit of bummer considering i'm gonna have to get through 60 litres of the stuff. I don't suppose it's possible to add anything to brews 4&5 (which have already spent a week in the FV) to get them tasting a bit less watery? A long shot I know, but if you have any bright ideas I'd love to hear them.

Also, can you recommend any economic ways to buy malt? I'm trying to keep costs down as much as possible (hence the homebrand extract haha). I'm based in Melbourne. Much appreciated!

5 Posted: Wednesday, September 13, 2017 9:48 PM

Hi coolman. If you are okay with a higher ABV, then yes, you could still add a tin of light LME to each batch. However, you will still have a kilo of dextrose in there, plus the rice syrup, so these batches will never be great. You might be throwing good money after bad.

I would use tinned LME in this case, rather than DME or repackaged LME, as the tins of LME are pasteurized. DME would have to be diluted in water and boiled, which will water down your brew. No need to dilute the LME with water, just dump it in a stir gently. The yeast will kick off another round fermenation, which will increase your ABV.

Regarding cheaper sources of malt extract, shop around. In some places LME is cheaper and in others DME is. BlackSands, another forum member, uses Maltexo, which is food grade malt extract. But your cheapest source of malt is grains. When you are ready, you could try partial mashing, or switching to all grain.

Cheers,

Christina.

6 Posted: Thursday, September 14, 2017 8:09 AM

coolman:

…waited until the wort cooled to 14 degrees then pitched a packet of saflager yeast (W-34/70) into each. They've been kept together at the same temperature (around 10-12 degrees).

Even though you've brewed a couple of low-ish gravity beers I think two packets of yeast is most often recommended for a cold lager ferment. One packet may be quite slow to start and may under-perform.

Christina:

BlackSands, another forum member, uses Maltexo, which is food grade malt extract.

Yup! I've used it a fair bit in the past and have been unable to identify any difference between it and the same company's brew-grade LME range - Black Rock. The only notable difference is the price! A 1.5kg can of Maltexo @$10 is by far and away the cheapest extract here in NZ. A can of that and a couple hundered g's of sugar pair up nicely with any of the cheaper Coopers OS cans (lager, draught, real ale etc @$12.00) to make a fairly cheap and palatable brew. Maltexo itself is an unhopped extract course. I've also brewed using just a couple of cans of the stuff, along with steeped grains and a hop boil for bittering and late hop additions for flavour/aroma. Ended up with a nice enough light ale which cost less than $25 to make.

Not sure if it's available there in Melbourne though. You could check your local supermarket for equivalent products - I've heard of the brand Saunders, which was the subject of a rather heated debate here some yeas ago I understand! But be wary as many ‘food-grade’ extracts also have other additives. Maltexo is 100% barley.

7 Posted: Saturday, September 16, 2017 9:22 PM

Thank you both for your informative replies.
I've decided to leave these brews as they are and consider it a lesson learnt. The lack of head retention from brew #3 saddens me (not to say that it won't improve with a bit more time) but it is by no means undrinkable.

Very interesting to learn of these LMEs. If I've understood correctly a LME tin is essentially the same as a beer kit can without the addition of hops?
If so does this mean that I could throw in two beer kit cans and a couple hundred grams of dextrose and make a decent brew?
Or would it be better to use a coopers brew enhancer (http://store.coopers.com.au/coopers-brew-enhancer-2-1kg.html)? Seems about the same price as 1.5kg of LME ($11) & 1kg of dextrose ($5) which would make approx. two batches.

Was very happy with the lager (brew #2) I made with:
- #42 Beer Kit Converter Australian Bitter 1kg
- 15g Hop pellets
- Beermakers Draught tin 1.7kg
- Saflager s-23 dry lager yeast 11.5g

The ingredients did set me back $40 though. Maybe it's worth it. I would like to see if I can make something similar for less though. Any opinions greatly appreciated.

Cheers,
Joe

8 Posted: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 1:25 PM

You could use two kit cans with a bit of dex but it's better off done with low bittered kits like the Mexican cerveza or something because otherwise it will be way too bitter. Given what you've been brewing so far, it doesn't sound like you're into the higher bittered beers that much.

There is a toucan recipe with the original series Stout and Dark ale kits put together with a kilo of dex, which turns out a cracking beer, but that's a totally different style so the higher bitterness works fine in it.

Last edited by Otto Von Blotto (Tuesday, September 19, 2017 1:25 PM)