Low Gravity Festive

What went wrong? Was this supposed to happen? Should I throw it out? What do I do now?

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Low Gravity Festive

Postby bdrerup » Mon Feb 05, 2007 11:01 pm

I am a novice brewer (about 5 batches), and I am trying my first original recipe, which is an extract interpretation of a Sweetwater Festive Ale. I had not paid a lot of attention to my hydrometer readings with the kits I've used in the past, because I just expected them to come out OK (which they did). On this one, though, I got a (calibrated) reading of 1.020 for my OG :shock: , which seems unGodly low. I honestly didn't realize the abv consequence of this until the following day (today) when I read up on it. The batch was already fermenting away happily by then.

I really didn't want to end up with 60 bottles of 1% beer, so I took drastic measures. I scooped about a quart of fermenting wort out and warmed it enough to disolve 1.5# of pure cane sugar, then poured it back in (still fermenting away happily). My thought was to add sugar and try to avoid oxygen-full tap water. I hated to risk contamination, and would have preferred more extract or corn sugar, but felt I had limited time and the brew store was too far from home.

Anyway, I am at a complete loss as to the cause of the low gravity. Any ideas about that and analysis of how badly I've likely screwed up the batch would be appreciated. I was downright giddy with anticipation, too, when I smelled that sweet spicy wort. !@#$!

Here are the recipe particulars:

2 x 4# cans of Mountmellick Extra Light LME
1/4# Black Patent
1/2# Crystal
1/2# Chocolate
1/2# Cara-Pils
1/2# Munich
1oz Chinook Hops
1oz Goldings Hops
1tsp Allspice
1tsp Mace
1 stick cinnamon

Steeped all specialty grains together in what I now realize was not enough water (~1.5 gallons)
Sparged into brewpot & added both cans of LME, spices & Chinook
Boiled 45 min
Added Goldings for last 5 min of boil
Poured through seive into cold water in fermenter to reach ~6 gallons (my magic-marker bucket graduation is somewhat approximate)

I ran this through ProMash & BeerTools, and it seems I should have had up around 1.060 OG. As I said, I am at a loss. I'm trying not to worry, but with mixed success. :cry:

Thanks in advance for any advice.
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Doesn't make sense ...

Postby billvelek » Tue Feb 06, 2007 12:25 am

It doesn't add up; are you sure you weren't reading 20 degrees on the balling scale, which would be close to 1.080, but that's a lot closer to your expected 1.060 than 1.020 is. Maybe a combination of a temperature different than the calibrated temp, plus perhaps not reading it exactly right below the meniscus, plus maybe a couple of homebrews thrown into the mix :P ... might help account for this mystery.


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Maybe the homebrews

Postby bdrerup » Tue Feb 06, 2007 9:18 am

I'm sure I used the right scale. It's the only one graduated to the third decimal point, and the hydrometer was definitely riding really low.

After some more thought, I can't recall how much mixing I may have done prior dipping out my sample and/or whether I added more cold water after the wort to reach 6 gallons. I'm thinking I probably just took a very watery sample in a very poorly mixed bucket...probably at least partially due to consumption of my previous batch of brown ale :mrgreen: .

Like you said, it doesn't add up. Forget about the specialty grains. There is no way that 8 pounds of LME in 6 gallons of water could yield that low of an OG.

Hopefully I didn't contaminate it or give it a bad sugar/cider bite.

Thanks for the response.
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Postby slothrob » Tue Feb 06, 2007 10:34 am

There's no way you could add all that extract and get that OG. If this ever happens again, you should pause, think about what you've already added, and figure that there is something wrong with the reading, before doing something as drastic as adding sugar. These extract recipes almost always hit their target OG, since most of your sugar is coming from extract. The only way they won't is if you forget to add the extract or over dilute.

Having said that, the sugar won't ruin the beer, or make it cidery (that mostly comes from old extract). It might make it a bit thinner than intended and will probably make it taste more of alchohol. Since you have made this a beer that will end quite high in alchohol, the biggest concern I would have would be fusel alchohols, which will make the beer seem hot. I would try to keep the beer fermenting in the mid 60's, because this will become exagerated above 70
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Postby bdrerup » Tue Feb 06, 2007 11:34 am

Thanks for the feedback. My fermenter is in a location that is pretty consistently 68 degrees. I don't think it will go above that.

I'll post how it turns out at bottling in a couple of weeks.
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